Johanna Jacobsson on Comparative Law Methodology

@IE University

Johanna Jacobsson is a globally-minded Finnish lawyer with extensive experience in international trade and business law. We spoke with her to explore how she applies her expansive expertise and interests to her teaching.

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.

Johana Jacobsson

Johanna Jacobsson is a globally-minded Finnish lawyer with extensive experience in international trade and business law. Her main fields of expertise include international trade law—particularly concerning services—the regulation of the digital economy, and the EU’s internal market law and external trade relations. She holds a PhD from the European University Institute and is currently a Professor in International Law and EU Law at IE University, where she teaches students from law, business, and international relations programs. In addition to her teaching and research activities at IE Law School, Johanna is also an independent consultant on her areas of specialization.

Johanna’s legal practice extends from a private law firm to act as a law clerk at the Court of Justice of the European Union, and since July 2018 she has been a member of the Executive Council of the Society of International Economic Law (SIEL). Her private practice has focused on dispute settlement concerning national and EU litigation and commercial arbitration, as well as competition, employment, and general corporate law. Her key professional focus has always involved innovation—both in higher education and the legal sector.

We spoke with her to explore how she applies her expansive expertise and interests to her teaching.

What courses do you teach at IE University?

I teach European Union Law and Public International Law (at the bachelor’s level) and the LL.M. in International Business Law and Public International Law.

How do you approach comparative law methodology in your course?

I only teach EU law and international law, not national law. This means that the methodology I use is inherently comparative as it is necessary for my students to understand how EU law and international law are put into effect in national legal orders. However, the method used is not comparative in the same way as when you teach a specific branch of national law, such as criminal law or family law.

We don’t spend much time focusing on specific legal systems, as most of the time we study international legal principles. The relevance of national differences usually arises when there is a dispute about the applicability or correct interpretation of a specific EU/international legal rule between different countries. Therefore, many of the case studies we use focus on problems arising from the incorrect implementation of EU or international law within different national legal systems.

Alongside Professor Charlotte Leskinen, I organize IE University’s own EU & International Law Challenge which is offered to undergraduate law students. This is in the style of a moot court competition in which students have to prepare written and oral pleadings concerning a hypothetical case. All cases include elements from both EU and international law. Even if the exercise is not entirely comparative in nature—as it usually includes imaginary countries—the students must understand the types of legal issues which may arise when international law is implemented in different national contexts.

«These characteristics seem to also be highly valued by employers. I evaluate all our law students’ internships and most students strongly emphasize these four factors in their reports.»

In your opinion, what value does teaching comparative law methodology add to an international classroom?

IE University and IE Law School, with their internationally diverse learning environments, require a comparative law methodology. Otherwise, it would be impossible to attract so many international students to study law in Spain. In fact, the comparative law methodology we use attracts both international and Spanish students. We attract the type of student who already has an international background and outlook. As a result, our classrooms are filled with a wide range of nationalities, making it much easier and natural to study and teach using a comparative law methodology. With a classroom full of students from all over the world, it wouldn’t make much sense to focus solely on one legal system.

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

The key separating factors of IE University graduates from other law graduates in Spain is their international profile, their language skills, their practical legal skills, and their soft skills (including communication skills). These characteristics seem to also be highly valued by employers. I evaluate all our law students’ internships and most students strongly emphasize these four factors in their reports.

Comparative law methodology is an important contributor to a global legal career. In today’s world, studying this methodology can lead students towards almost any legal career. The analytical skills and case-study method they learn at IE University helps them to grasp new areas of law quickly and makes them highly adaptable professionals.

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In today’s increasingly digital world, legal experts like Johanna’s with an interest in the legal ramifications of digital globalization are increasingly sought-after. By learning from and interacting with her, students at IE University are able to develop essential innovative mindsets to make strides as dynamic legal professionals.