A legal internship in Italy: observations on Italian and comparative Law

This summer, I decided to combine both my desire to travel and my desire to do an internship, so I figured a good compromise would be a legal internship in a foreign country. I had an opportunity to do an internship in an Italian Law firm in Italy, and speaking Italian was a real prerequisite.

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This experience was really rewarding linguistically and culturally speaking, but it is on the legal aspect that I would like to focus as a Comparative Law student from the “Grande Ecole du Droit”.

As a reminder, Italy, such as France, is a member of the European Union, and shares with our French jurisdiction many Community norms that they must abide by. Italy also has a Civil Law system. Consequently, as a French student, although familiar with English Law and American Law (Common-Law systems), it is still easier to understand Italian Law (on the condition that you speak Italian, of course!). We recover our “Codice Civile” and “Codice Penale” («Code Civil» and «Code pénal») notably, and many others, which are very similar. Institutional and procedural systems also are very close from the French ones. The “Corte di Cassassione” (highest judicial body responsible for examining the rights to appeal against the decisions of courts of appeal) gives an interpretation of the laws when norms are ambiguous, however cases do not form precedents, in contrast to English or American Law.

However, despite a deep contrast between American and Italian Law, it must be noted that the first influences the other, as surprising as it seems. A concrete example to illustrate this statement: the procedure of “mediazione” (Italian word for “mediation”).

Since the passing, in 2010 of an Italian Law (D. Lgs. 28/10 art. 5 comma 1), covering areas such as Family law, successions, real rights, medical responsibility, etc., the parties that disagree have the obligation to attend a mediation procedure before going to the judge. If this procedure does not exist in France in such areas (at least for now), it really is derived from American deals. But in practice, this new law, whose aim was in theory to reduce the work of judges, seems unsuccessful and is criticized by legal professionals. Indeed, lawyers keep on going directly to the judge, so the judge sends them back to the mediator before giving his decision and this disposition seems like a waste of time, despite its initial intention.

Finally, what I noted from this experience was that laws influence each other, whether it is between geographical neighbours or not. However, the procedure of mediazione also illustrates the fact that transposing procedures or norms to a completely legal system is not always fully efficient.

Eve Tullio