Argyri Panezi on Comparative Law Methodology

@IE University

The rapid and complex changes that are taking place due to digitalization have created a new legal frontier, Professor Panezi who is among the top legal minds explains her vision o comparative law methodology in this scenario.

In today’s globalized economic context, future graduates need to prepare for life as effective leaders on the world stage—and it’s the responsibility of institutions of higher education to make sure that happens. At IE University, we work hard to develop dynamic learning approaches to provide talented individuals with the insights and resources to effect lasting change.

In all our law programs, our world-class faculty go beyond the confines of any single legal system to mirror the reality of international law. This high-impact methodology allows students to interact with the current trends, insights, and challenges present in key international legal jurisdictions to develop a wholly global outlook.

The current global context calls for inspirational professors to train lawyers of international renown. Below, we get the opportunity to hear from one of them.

Professor Argyri Panezi received her PhD from the European University Institute in Florence, Italy; her LL.M. from Harvard Law School; and her LL.B. from the University of Athens. Professor Panezi specializes in legal issues associated with technology, specifically regarding intellectual property and internet policies.

She brings this expertise to her role as a professor at IE University, where she concentrates a lot of her teaching on contracts—particularly smart contracts—and to her classes on copyright law in the digital era.

Alongside her teaching responsibilities, Professor Panezi focuses her research on digitalization and AI. She has conducted many research studies in her time as a researcher and teacher at The European University Institute, Berkeley Law School, and NYU School of Law. Her published material includes papers on copyright law with regard to digital libraries and on the European legal framework as it applies to cultural heritage situations.

Before undertaking her PhD, Professor Panezi worked as a lawyer at a law firm in Brussels. We sat down with her to talk about her teaching approach at IE University.


What courses do you teach at IE University?

At IE University, I teach Law and Technology and Intellectual Property. I also take part in the Private Law course, where I teach Contract Law and Introduction to Private Law.

In the last academic year, I taught an intensive Copyright Law class focusing on digital copyright in the new LegalTech LL.M. I also led a project about algorithms, working with a legal clinic team of students at the law school. For the next academic year, I am coordinating the Introduction to Private Law courses at the LL.B., which is in the first year for the LL.B. and the dual-degree students. I will also be teaching the second-year contracts course, as well as a Cybersecurity seminar (PLE Program). 

 How do you approach the methodology of comparative law in your course?

Teaching private law in the 21st century is fascinating. Adapting traditional private law subjects like contracts to a global context and to contemporary examples is both challenging and rewarding, particularly those related to our digital reality. Comparative law is a great way to help students think outside geographical borders with respect to applicable law and jurisdiction.

Students are encouraged to discover the rationale behind current laws, search for what lies behind the differences among the various jurisdictions and think about whether and when is legal diversity preferable to homogeneity. This proves particularly useful when we move to the digital context in which jurisdictional borders are especially challenged.

In my private law classes, and particularly in Contract Law, I use case studies to teach different concepts. They also serve to demonstrate how law(s) have evolved from the regulating normal contacts to online transactions and then to smart contracts. I use the Socratic teaching method because it generally promotes larger class participation, motivates discussions, and delivers knowledge through student-thinking and debate.

Finally, moot exercises and in-class debates are also very useful and fun tools to experiment with. I generally encourage experiential learning, where students participate in moot courts and other mock exercises. By incorporating various segments of legal process, such as drafting amicus curiae briefs or policy reaction papers, students can experiment with legal writing. When the topic allows, it is also useful to use mock negotiations and contract drafting as practice. Having been a practitioner, I particularly value the building of practical skills next to theoretical knowledge.

As for law and technology and intellectual property, I generally take an interdisciplinary approach for designing the syllabus and class discussions. I think this is helpful considering how interconnected the disciplines are—especially law and technology. In addition, different areas of law feed into each other. For example, there are strong links between and among the areas of IP law, contract law, and law and economics.

In the various domains of law and technology, I have found that it is important to put law into context by exploring sources from computer science, information science, history and legal theory. I encourage students to reflect on how the legal system affects and is affected by its environment and technological progress, and also how it’s shaped by constantly balancing power and interests. I also encourage reflection on the economic, political, and social implications of legal rules, and the interplay between private and public purposes as well as on relevant stakeholder positions.

What is, in your opinion, the added value of teaching with the comparative law methodology in an international environment?

Students at IE University come from all over the world. I find it fascinating how they initially seek the “one and only” answer to legal questions. But immersed in this international classroom environment, they soon understand that there is more than one possible solution, as reflected in different jurisdictions or contexts. They are then immediately interested in how specific national laws are applied to a hypothetical case that they are solving.

In my classes I have seen a special interest in Spanish laws and courts, EU laws and the EU courts, and also in the legislative frameworks in other jurisdictions where the students come from. For example, last semester I found that my Contract Law students were particularly enthusiastic about a particular assignment. They had to propose reforms to their own countries’ legislation, or to a country of their choice, in order to adapt specific parts of contracts’ legislation to the digital era. 

How would you define an IE University graduate? And how does the methodology of comparative law contribute to this profile?

IE University students do not necessarily wish to practice law in Spain. They are a very international crowd of students and aspiring young professionals looking for opportunities in Europe and beyond. For this reason, they are interested in laws and regulations around the globe. They are also interested in the commercial side of regulation, exploring how law and business practices around the world interest and affect each other. This is especially true for those studying the dual LL.B/BBA program.   

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The rapid and complex changes that are taking place due to digitalization have created a new legal frontier. Professor Panezi is among the top legal minds that are navigating this change to ensure the rights of institutions and individuals. The effects of her work—and that of her students as they enter the legal sphere—will have a lasting impact on society as the digital landscape continues to mature