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Public International Law and Private International Law – (How) Do They Differ?



I have read discussions about the role of public international lawyers after they have graduated from universities and how does this role differ from the role of private international lawyers, accompanying the appearance of a new book by Eric A. Posner, “The Perils of Global Legalism” University of Chicago Press 2009 (that I am trying to order now).

Posner is of opinion that public international lawyers work as lawyers in the State Department or the Justice Department; for an international organization, or an international NGO („with a legal agenda such as Human Rights Watch“, or have an academic or intellectual interest in international law and international relations. He is of opinion that private international lawyers work for a law firm whose clients include corporations that do business across borders. (Source: Opinio Juris blog post of 3 September 2009.)

 But there are other people (J. Adler, M. Scharf) who do not draw so radical distinctions between public international law and private international law, but see the lines between these two disciplines blurred). Indeed, although not writing about choices of law, even Akehurst includes Chapters on application of treaties (Brownlie has also a Chapter about treaty interpretation), customary law, the law of international organizations, economy as one of the substantive international law areas (but also international trade law and international environmental law), peaceful settlement of disputes. The same appears towards European Union law, where most of the general courses and books include Chapters on general issues concerning free movements and remedies (included introduction to non-contractual liability). In addition, there exist general principles of law applicable to most choices of law.

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