The International Law Bar: Essence Before Existence?

15 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2013 Last revised: 19 Mar 2014

See all articles by James Crawford

James Crawford

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law

Date Written: January 2014


It is almost an axiom that ‘[t]here exists no ‘international bar’ regulating forensic advocacy before international courts and tribunals’. 1 The ‘cardinal principle remains the freedom of choice by the State of the persons who will assist its agent’. 2 There is clearly no international law bar comparable to domestic bars – there are no qualifications which someone must attain before appearing before international courts and tribunals, no international code of ethics with which they must comply, and no international association to sanction them for misconduct. Here I will discuss, first, why there is no international law bar, focusing on the development of international advocacy and its regulation over the past century; and, secondly, what we have in the place of an international law bar. I conclude by asking whether things could, and should, change.

Keywords: international law; international bar; international courts; international ethics; international advocacy

Suggested Citation

Crawford, James, The International Law Bar: Essence Before Existence? (January 2014). University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 19/2014, ESIL 2013 5th Research Forum: International Law as a Profession Conference Paper No. 11/2013, Available at SSRN: or

James Crawford (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Law ( email )

10 West Road
Cambridge, CB3 9DZ
United Kingdom

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