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Contemporary Legal Transplants -- Legal Families and the Diffusion of (Corporate) Law

67 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2009 Last revised: 3 Aug 2010

Holger Spamann

Harvard Law School

Date Written: May 29, 2009


This paper empirically documents the continued importance of the legal families for the diffusion of formal legal materials from the core to the periphery in post-colonial times. This raises the possibility that substantive differences between countries of different families around the world, such as those documented in the legal origins literature, continue to be the result of separate diffusion processes rather than of intrinsic differences between common and civil law.

Using the example of corporate and securities law, the paper documents the frequent and often exclusive use of legal materials and models from the respective legal family’s core countries in treatises and law reform projects in 32 peripheral and semi-peripheral countries. The paper also shows that most authors of these treatises and projects were trained in the respective core countries. Data on the activities of national legal development and cooperation organizations, trade and investment flows, and student migration confirm the close legal family ties and provide some evidence of possible channels through which materials may continue to diffuse within their legal families after decolonization.

The diffusion of formal legal materials need not imply that the substantive development of law is affected by foreign influences, at least not in ways that induce substantive differences between periphery countries of different legal families. Various theories from comparative law, sociology, political science, and economics provide reasons, however, why the content of law in the periphery might continue to be influenced by core country models of the same legal family, as the evidence of formal diffusion suggests they are.

Keywords: Diffusion of law, legal transplants, legal origins, legal families, common law, civil law

JEL Classification: K22, K40

Suggested Citation

Spamann, Holger, Contemporary Legal Transplants -- Legal Families and the Diffusion of (Corporate) Law (May 29, 2009). Brigham Young University Law Review, Vol. 2009, No. 6, pp. 1813-1877, 2010; Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 09-33; Harvard Law School John M. Olin Center Discussion Paper No. 28. Available at SSRN:

Holger Spamann (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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