A lawyers’ oath for the digital age: Team from the University of Bayreuth wins international competition
University of Bayreuth, Press release No. 103/2021, 21 July 2021
Alexandra Molitorisová and Elijah Granet, doctoral students at the University of Bayreuth’s Food Law research group in Kulmbach, and Lissy Verrall from the Inns of Court College of Advocacy in London, have won first prize in an international competition organised by Liquid Legal Institute e.V. (LLI) in Munich. Law students and doctoral candidates from all over the world were invited to develop an oath that - analogous to the Hippocratic Oath in medicine – contains tenets of ethical self-obligation for lawyers in professional practice. In the end, the winning proposal of the Anglo-German team managed to prevail over more than 20 others from five continents.
LLI is an international platform that aims to promote the innovative development of law and the legal profession with new ideas and initiatives. The focus is on digitalisation, standardisation, new procedural models, education and training, and substantive law. The competition for the development of a professional oath for lawyers was aimed at finding a contemporary form of self-commitment that corresponds to global innovation and digitalisation processes in business, society, and politics. The award-winning formulation for an oath contains obligations towards individual clients, towards society, and towards one's own profession. These include, for example, strict confidentiality in the handling of personal data, but also the stipulation never to leave legal decisions in the remit of human responsibility to digital technologies, which here must retain only a supporting function. Likewise, in the proposed oath, lawyers undertake to further develop their knowledge of technologies relevant to legal practice, and to adapt to the current state of affairs, for example through further training or participation in international networks.
Moving forward, the initiators of the competition intend to present the oath to various stakeholders in academia and practice, such as lawyers and judges and company legal departments. In this way, they wish to draw attention to the importance of technological innovation in the development of law, and solicit approval for any responsibility resulting for lawyers being expressed in future oaths.
"We were very pleased that our proposed formulation managed to win against some very strong international competition. In my daily research work in Kulmbach, I am currently dealing with issues of European food law, which is facing new challenges in view of rapid technological progress in agriculture and food production. In order to be able to reach an opinion as a lawyer and act responsibly, it is imperative to be sufficiently familiar with these developments and, if necessary, to be able to draw on current scientific and technological expertise. The world of paragraphs is not enough," says Alexandra Molitorisová. Prof. Dr. Kai Purnhagen, Chair of Food Law at the University of Bayreuth at its new Kulmbach campus, adds: "The competition announced by the Liquid Legal Institute in Munich exemplifies the growing attention of the professional world on the great legal relevance of technological innovation. In Bayreuth, we have consequently developed new offerings for our law students, with which they can specifically broaden their horizons with regard to this critical aspect: a supplementary course of studies in Technology Studies and an interdisciplinary, supplementary programme in Computer Science & Digitalisation."
The award-winning proposal of a "Hippocratic Oath" for lawyers can be found here:
University of Bayreuth, Campus Kulmbach
Phone: +49 (0)921 55-1023
Prof. Dr. Kai Purnhagen
Chair of Food Law
University of Bayreuth, Campus Kulmbach
Phone: +49 (0)921 55-1020
University of Bayreuth
Phone: +49 (0)921 / 55-5356