Toward a Methodology for Successful Legal Transplants

44 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2012 Last revised: 26 Jul 2012

See all articles by Randall Peerenboom

Randall Peerenboom

La Trobe University - Faculty of Law and Management; Oxford University - Centre for Socio-Legal Studies

Date Written: January 9, 2012


Global efforts to promote rule of law and good governance have led to renewed interest in legal transplants. Many reforms projects have focused on the substance of legal transplants, prescribing particular laws, practices or institutions, concepts, norms and attitudes – usually those found in the advanced economies of Euro-America – for developing countries. The results of such projects have been disappointing. The lackluster results have called attention to the need to develop a workable methodology for legal reforms, focusing on the processes of reform. Such a methodology must be based on a better theoretical and empirical understanding of the conditions that determine the success or failure of legal transplants.

One of the shortcomings of current rule of law promotion programs is that they tend to prescribe a common set of 'best practices' for all countries. Relatively little work has been done on differentiating developing countries and developing categories or ideal types based on the types of challenges they face. Accordingly, Part I lays the groundwork for a methodology of legal reforms based on differential analysis by first distinguishing between three 'exceptional cases': failed states, post-conflict states, and transitional states. In addition, Part I contrasts the particular problems facing low-income countries (LICs) with those facing middle-income countries (MICs).

Part II then develops a preliminary methodological framework for assessing legal reforms and legal transplants. Part III concludes.

Keywords: rule of law, comparative law, law and development, international best practices, legal transplants

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Peerenboom, Randall, Toward a Methodology for Successful Legal Transplants (January 9, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Randall Peerenboom (Contact Author)

La Trobe University - Faculty of Law and Management ( email )

Department of Economics and Finance
Victoria 3552, 3086

Oxford University - Centre for Socio-Legal Studies

St. Cross Building
St. Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UJ
United Kingdom

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