The Forum Corporate Law (Forum Unternehmensrecht) contributed a special event on "Language Issues in Corporate Law" to a Conference organized by the Law Schools of the University of Düsseldorf (Prof. Dr. R. Alexander Lorz) and the University of California at Los Angeles (Prof. Frances Olsen) in cooperation with the Department of the English Language and English Linguistics of the University of Düsseldorf (Prof. Dr. Dieter Stein). On Wednesday May 17th, 2006 Prof. Dr. Ulrich Prinz, Dr. Maximilian Schiessel, and Dr. Dirk Zetzsche, LL.M. presented three very different topics in the exclusive atmosphere of the Industrie-Club e.V. Düsseldorf.The interested and audience consisted of both lawyers and linguists interested in the relevance of foreign speech in legal practice, who actively participated in the discussion.
First Dr. Dirk Zetzsche, LL.M. (Toronto) from the CBC (Center for Business and Corporate Law), gave a brief introduction to "Language and the legal academia". By providing several examples, ranging from ancient Greece and Rome to France, he illustrated his thesis that language is just a random side-effect and as such not really a dominant part of a lawyer's rhetoric skills. Even though there were linguists present, the audience evidently enjoyed his novel, yet brief presentation. Afterwards Dr. Zetzsche acted as a moderator to the other two presentations and the concluding discussion.
Next Dr. Maximilian Schiessl, LL.M. (Harvard), partner at Hengeler Mueller (Düsseldorf), one of the leading German lawyers in Business Transactions, imparted his international experiences to the audience. His lecture on "Law and language in cross-border M&A practice" was full of interesting examples and practical advice. In conclusion, he emphasized that a perfect international lawyer requires appreciation for cultural differences, command of English language and experience in cross-border work. Even though neither German as a language nor the German legal system prevail in international transactions, a solid knowledge of the German legal system is an irreplacable asset in legal practice, even with regards to cross-boarder dealss.
Finally Prof. Dr. Ulrich Prinz, StB/WP, partner at Flick Gocke Schaumburg (Bonn) and director of the CBC, presented "The modern Tower of Babel: IAS/IFRS as an international accounting standard in Europe". He compared the German accounting system to IAS (International Accounting Standards) and IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards). Whereas German businesses are used to "unified" accounting for tax purposes as well as dividend distribution and market information, those international standards exclusively emphasize information. Professor Prinz critized the monopoly of the English language in the original wording of the official rules and the associated translation problems. He also illustrated several incompatibilities between the IAS-rules and German business law, especially with regards to reporting for German partnerships.
The discussion focused to recent developments such as the merger of Euronext and Deutsche Börse AG. The audience joined the lively debate not only by raising questions, but also by giving new ideas. The lawyers agreed that exporting German law has become harder in recent years and many states, especially in the East tend to orient themselves towards the US. Insofar we are required to give in to foreign standards and are unable to employ our law in international transaction. Summing up the discussion, Dr. Zetzsche, LL.M. concluded the evening by emphasizing the need to learn how to better "sell" German law to others.
All in all it was a highly interesting evening which once more emphasized the need for awareness of language problems and their influence on law.
Bericht verfasst von Dr. Jutta Lommatzsch