26 Jun 2024


From a Distance: Reflections on German Law and Legal Culture — A Conversation with Russell Miller

On the evening of 24 June 2024, a distinguished panel of speakers convened in Berlin to discuss Russell Miller’s new book ‘Introduction to German Law and Legal Culture‘ (Cambridge University Press). Russell Miller (pictured centre) is J B Stombock Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University and a former Research Coordinator of Max Planck Law. The event was co-organized by Max Planck Law and the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law.

Alexandra Kemmerer (Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law) chaired the conversation, which featured contributions from Michaela Hailbronner (University of Münster), András Jakab (Paris Lodron University Salzburg), Ralf Michaels (Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law, Hamburg), Vera Weissflog (Federal Ministry of Justice), and Philipp Dann (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin).

The event opened with Alexandra Kemmerer introducing the book as a significant contribution to comparative law. She highlighted Miller’s unique position as both an insider and outsider of German law, providing a valuable perspective for an Anglophone audience. His extensive experience in German and US legal academies was noted as integral to the depth and authenticity of his work.

Russell Miller began the conversation by expressing gratitude for the support received throughout his project. He explained the foundational aim of his book: to offer a comprehensive yet accessible survey of German law, intertwining legal doctrines with cultural context. Emphasizing a pluralistic approach, Miller described his intent to capture the dynamic and diverse nature of German legal culture, moving beyond a static, essentialist view.

The panellists provided insightful reflections on Miller’s work. Michaela Hailbronner praised the historical chapters but noted how the book avoided engagement with more critical scholarship. András Jakab appreciated the book’s enthusiastic presentation of German legal culture, describing it as an invitation for readers to appreciate the intricacies of the legal system. Vera Weissflog discussed the international dimension of German law, referencing initiatives like the ‘Law — Made in Germany‘ brochure and rule of law dialogues facilitated by the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Ralf Michaels commended Miller’s focus on legal culture, recognizing the challenge of avoiding homogenization while presenting a national legal system. He highlighted the book’s success in portraying German law as a confluence of various traditions, including civil law, common law, European law, and others. Philipp Dann drew attention to the timely relevance of the book, given the increasing interest in German legal education in English and the broader scope of comparative constitutional law.

In concluding the event, the panellists emphasized the book’s role in fostering a deeper understanding of German law for both domestic and international audiences. They acknowledged the importance of such works in bridging gaps between legal traditions and promoting global legal discourse. The conversation set the stage for Miller’s book to become an important resource in comparative law studies.

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