LL4Y9      Half Unit
Comparative and Transnational Law

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Jacco Bomhoff NAB 6.09


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time) and University of Pennsylvania Law School LLM Visiting Students. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is capped at 30 students. Students must apply through Graduate Course Choice on LSEforYou. Students from other Departments are allowed to apply with permission of the course convener. 

Course content

This course covers both the comparison of law and legal institutions from different legal systems and traditions (comparative law), and the study of forms of legal regulation beyond the state (transnational law). For each these two fields, topics for discussion are selected based on their relation to one or both of two broad themes: First, the connections between law and its surroundings (culture, society, economy, etc.); and second, the character of ‘law’ generally (as a form of reasoning, or a set of institutional arrangements, or a distinctive ‘worldview’, etc.). Studying these two classic themes across of a range different national- and transnational settings allows us to ask a series of more concrete questions, such as: "Why are courts in some legal systems more powerful or more trusted than courts in other systems?"; "Why do some countries send far more people to prison than others?”; ”Is it possible for a lawyer from one legal system to really understand what law means or how law works in some other system; or for a legal doctrine from one system to be ‘transplanted’ to another?”; and: "How is 'law' in non-state contexts similar to and different from state law?".

The course combines attention to theory (social- and cultural theory, theories of comparison, and of the transnationalisation of law) with detailed case studies in selected areas from different fields of law (comparative constitutional law, comparative private law, comparative criminal justice, EU law; and commercial arbitration, among others). The course might be especially interesting for students already taking other courses with a comparative- or a transnational law dimension, and for all students interested in the ways law works, and does not work, and in how lawyers think, in different parts of the world.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 20 hours in Lent Term. Students will usually have two additional hours in the Summer Term. This year teaching will be delivered through recorded online lectures and a mix of both in-person and online classes to accommodate students who are unable to physically be on campus. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Lent Term.

Formative coursework

All students are expected to produce one 2,000 word formative essay during the course. This essay is due in Week 7.

Indicative reading

-Adams, Maurice & Bomhoff, Jacco, Practice and Theory in Comparative Law (Cambridge, 2013)

-Cotterrell, Roger, What is Transnational Law?, LAW & SOCIAL INQUIRY (2012)

-Frankenberg, Gunther, Critical Comparisons: Re-thinking Comparative Law, 26 HARVARD INTERNATIONAL LAW JOURNAL (1985)

-Pirie, Fernanda, The Anthropology of Law (Oxford, 2013)

-Reimann, Mathias and Zimmermann, Reinhard, The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Law (Oxford, 2006)

-Ruskola, Teemu, Legal Orientalism (Harvard, 2013)

-Shaffer, Greg, Theorizing Transnational Legal Ordering, ANNUAL REVIEW OF LAW AND SOCIAL SCIENCE (2016)

-Special Issue: 'Comparative Socio-Legal Studies', INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LAW IN CONTEXT (2017)


Take-home assessment (100%) in the ST.

The take home exam will consist of 2 essay questions (out of 6 set), each with a 3000 word limit. Students will be given their exam questions at 9:00 am on Wednesday morning of Week 1 Summer Term, via Moodle, and will have until 5:00 pm on Thursday afternoon of Week 2 Summer Term to submit the exam. The length of time set for this assessment already takes into account that students may also have one or more other exams during this period.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2019/20: 28

Average class size 2019/20: 28

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication