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Genf-Gesellschaft e.V.

The Geneva Society is an association of former students, doctoral candidates and law assistants at the University of Geneva who feel connected by shared experiences.

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About us

The Geneva Society aims at being much more than an alumni association that meets for social events. It resembles more an alumni club of American model. Of course, the Society is also intended to be a forum for alumni who want to maintain and cultivate contact with each other and with the University of Geneva. The most important goal is rather a different one: Geneva is known to be the seat of many international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Labor Organization or the World Health Organization. In this unique cosmopolitan environment, students can expand their knowledge beyond national law at an early stage of their education, lay the foundations for comparative-critical legal thinking and, in the form of the certificate in transnational law, acquire a professional qualification that goes beyond the usual national training content. This concern, which is more topical than ever today, is supported by the Geneva Society with all its strength. We would therefore like to be present at the University of Geneva and maintain good contact with our Swiss colleagues. Of course, we are pleased to welcome all persons who wish to join the Society.

The Society

The Geneva Society is an association of former students, doctoral candidates and assistants of law at the University of Geneva, who are united by shared experiences and who wish to promote the study and research in Geneva in the field of transnational law, including international law, European Union law and comparative law. For historical reasons, the study of German law in Geneva also plays a special role. Today, the members of the Geneva Society are represented in many legal professions, both in academia and in practice. By organizing information events for students of the University of Geneva on professional and career paths for lawyers, we aim to highlight the opportunities and possibilities that may arise from a stay in Geneva. Through our alumni network, there are also opportunities for the exchange of experiences and the placement of internships. The scholarship of the Geneva Society supports law students from Germany during their studies abroad in Geneva. We recognize outstanding achievements of exchange students by awarding an annual prize for the best performance within the program of the Certificat de droit transnational or the Certificate in Transnational Law. We have also provided financial support to moot court teams at the University of Geneva. Our scientific conference, which usually takes place every two years in Geneva, aims to promote the exchange between current and former Geneva residents.

Statute

The Association has as it aims the promotion of academia and research, as well as of teaching and public and professional training, including student support in the area of transnational law (incl. international law, European Union law and comparative law), and to promote thinking internationally, tolerance between peoples from other cultures and a better understanding between peoples.

Board

The General Assembly is presided over by the Chairperson of the Board, or, in absentia, the deputy Chairperson.

 

Research Council

The Research Council has in particular the tasks of providing scientific support to the Geneva Society for the fulfilment of the Society’s purpose, supervising the Science Prize awarded by the Society and coordinating visiting professorships at the University of Geneva.

Foundation

„As former assistants of the Droit allemand of the University of Geneva, we want to create a society for all those who have studied, assisted, taught or still do so in Geneva. Meetings of “new” and “old” Geneva residents, lectures, conferences, exchange of ideas, publications, reunion with Geneva … are you interested?“

This timid question, which Dr. Eltje Aderhold (assistant to Prof. Dr. Hans Hanisch from 1988-1990) addressed to former “Genevans” in a circular letter towards the end of 1991, set the ball rolling. The response was huge. The idea of founding a “Geneva Society” as a scientific association and as a forum for alumni was so well received that the plans were quickly put into practice: On October 24, 1992 about fifty founding members gathered in the rooms of the Foreign Office in Bonn and founded the “Geneva Society – Association for Legal Studies”. Over Whitsun 1993 we had our first festive meeting in Geneva with well over one hundred alumni from almost all age groups, with a speech by the doyen of the faculté de droit, a keynote address by Prof. Dr. Walther J. Habscheid on the subject of “Arbitration in Germany and Switzerland” and another by Prof. Dr. Wernhard Möschel on the subject of “European Integration at a Turning Point”. This event was rounded off by a roaring ball in the age-worthy Hotel des Berques located directly on the lake.

Timeline – „Post tenebras lux“

400 years of studying German law in Geneva.

With the “Unité de droit allemand”, the University of Geneva has a unique institution: it allows German students to combine the advantages of studying abroad with the continuation of their studies in German law, thus giving them the opportunity to gain experience in dealing with a foreign legal system at an early stage. This brief chronicle would like to show that this is not a recent institution, which has only come into being through the rapprochement of the states in Central Europe over the last few decades, but that the history of German-Genevan legal education looks back on a tradition of almost 400 years.
The origins of the University of Geneva, like many institutions in the city at lac léman, date back to the time of Jean Calvin (1509-1564). In June 1559, during the heyday of his theocratic rule, he founded the “Collège et Académie de Genève”, located not far from today’s Palais de Justice at Place du Bourg-de-Four. As the first director, Calvin appointed his friend Theodore de Bèze (1519-1605). At first, the Académie was planned as an educational institution of the Calvinist Protestant clergy; already ten years after its foundation, a chair of law was established beside the theological study department.

Geneva’s reputation as the capital of Protestantism in Europe attracted in particular nobles from Protestant principalities of the German Empire to Calvin’s Academy in the 16th and 17th centuries. The importance of Roman law and its subsidiary validity for civil law throughout Central Europe facilitated this step, as the focus of legal studies at that time was still on commenting on and reappraising the Corpus iuris. However, the Geneva faculty opened up very early to new legal currents, especially natural law at the end of the 16th century. The discipline of comparative law was limited to administrative law, the teaching of which at the Académie was highly regarded throughout Europe due to the modern Geneva administrative apparatus created by Calvin. Those who had studied in Geneva in the 16th and 17th centuries generally had better access to offices in the administration of their own country.

As today, the good reputation of the University of Geneva in its early years was due to the quality of its professors. The German lawyers, all of whom were initially honorary professors, were often personalities who had turned their backs on their home country for political reasons. Thus the first German professor, Johann Steinberg (born in Görlitz in 1592) fled from the turmoil of the Thirty Years’ War in 1621 to Geneva to work as a private teacher of law for his fellow countrymen. In 1638 he was then offered an honorary professorship at the university, which he soon left in favour of a chair at the University of Groningen. Two other honorary professors of German law – André Wengen from St. Gallen and Philipp A. Oldenburger – were appointed in 1672.

The most famous German professor of the 18th century was Karl Friedrich Necker from the Mark Brandenburg. The father of the famous Minister of Finance under Louis XVI Jacques Necker and grandfather of Madame de Stael, who later resided in the castle in Coppet, had accepted a position with the English ambassador in Geneva after completing his law studies and remained in the city even after his services were over. He married a woman from Geneva and became a private lecturer in German law in 1724.

The fading of Calvin’s world of ideas and the emergence of nationally influenced legal systems led to a continuous decline in the number of German law students in the course of the 18th and up to the middle of the 19th century. This did not change until, after the construction of today’s main university building in 1872 – financed from the estate of the Duke of Brunswick – a new law curriculum was also created. As early as 1885, there were 19 German students for every 18 Swiss and 29 other foreigners. In 1894, the number of Germans enrolled at the law faculty even increased to over 50 compared to 33 Swiss and 31 other foreigners.

The introduction of the Civil Code in Germany at the beginning of this century also changed the range of lectures offered by the Geneva faculty. In addition to Roman law, history of law and international law, the first lectures on the general part of the Civil Code, the law of obligations and family law were soon offered. After two further chairs for German law were established in 1904 and 1906, there was soon one professorship for each of the five books of the BGB, for Roman law even three. The outbreak of the First World War, however, brought this first high point of German legal life to an abrupt end; in 1916 the teaching of German law was even completely abandoned. Ten years passed before the long tradition of teaching German law was resumed in Geneva. However, the number of law students from Germany then increased rapidly: in the summer semester of 1928 there were as many as 194 Germans enrolled at Geneva University. The effects of National Socialist rule in Germany and the Second World War again drastically reduced the number of students enrolled (summer semester 1939; 81, summer semester 1940: 11 students). In addition, agitation by the National Socialist university group “Deutsche Studentenschaft der Schweiz” (German Student Body of Switzerland) against Jewish professors cast a dark light on the otherwise positive relations between Germans and the University of Geneva. It is thanks to the personality of Erich Hans Kaden (1898 – 1973) that it was possible to maintain teaching for the few German students at that time. Kaden, who came to Geneva in 1925 as Professor of German Civil Law and Roman Law, remained committed to teaching German law until the end of his life and did not give his last lecture until the winter semester of 1971/72.

The reestablishment of two and a half professorships for German law towards the end of the 1950s marked the beginning of the last stage in the 400-year history of German-Genevan legal relations. Walther Habscheid and Ernst Schönle were the first professors to form the Unité in its present form. The main focuses of the German law curriculum were civil law, commercial law and civil procedure law, with the addition of private international law and comparative law, whose importance is known to be increasing as the “internationalisation of law” continues to advance.

Professorial personalities such as Adolf Schnitzer (1889-1989), Walther Habscheid, Hans Hanisch, Horst Kaufmann, Herbert Schönle, Bernd Stauder, Rolf Stürner, Gerhard Walther and Michael R. Will have shaped and continue to shape the teaching of German law in Geneva. As 400 years ago, the main concern of the Unité de droit allemand remains to promote tolerance and understanding in dealing with foreign legal systems. After all, the German-Genevan legal education offers a living example of the common roots of European law, which is only now finding its way back to a uniform legal development. Passing on these thoughts to future generations of students is a task for the coming decades.

Wie vor 400 Jahren bleibt es Hauptanliegen der Unité de droit allemand, für Toleranz und Verständnis im Umgang mit fremden Rechtsordnungen zu werben. Denn die Deutsch-Genfer Juristenausbildung bietet ein lebendiges Beispiel für die gemeinsamen Wurzeln des europäischen Rechts, das erst heute wieder zu einer einheitlichen Rechtsentwicklung zurückfindet. Diese Gedanken auch an kommende Studentengenerationen weiterzugeben, ist Aufgabe für die nächsten Jahrzehnte.

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Activities

The activities of the Geneva Society include professional information and scientific events in Geneva, the scholarship, prizes, financial support of moot courts at the University of Geneva, regional networks and the internship exchange.

Studying in Geneva

“Imagine living in a city where there is a lake not far from where you live, but where you can also reach Mont Blanc in 15 minutes on foot, and where the distance between A and B is 20 minutes at the most, as well as by bicycle. At the same time, this city is so international that every second person comes from a different country. You can speak French or English and have a good chance of getting involved in the European headquarters of the United Nations. After one year of study, you will receive a degree in transnational law and will be trained both practically and theoretically in international and European law.”

Arne P. Wegner (scholarship holder of the Geneva Society 2016/17) on his studies in Geneva.

You can find detailed information about life and studies in Geneva under “Field reports”. The Geneva Society e.V. is committed in many ways to promoting the study of transnational law in Geneva. We recognize outstanding achievements of exchange students, for example, by awarding an annual prize for the best performance within the program of the Certificat de droit transnational or the Certificate in Transnational Law. Our academic conference, which takes place every two years in Geneva, aims to promote exchange between current and former Geneva students.

Scholarship

In order to support the stay in Geneva, the Geneva Society will grant EUR 150.00 per month in the academic year 2020/2021 to a law student with a German home university over a period of ten months. The scholarship will be granted for the duration of the stay in Geneva for all calendar months during the semesters, starting in September 2019. The scholarship is not earmarked for a specific purpose. The scholarship is accompanied by a free trial membership in the Geneva Society. Scholarship holders are required to provide regular proof of their academic achievements to an appointed member of the Executive Committee and to write a report. This report will be made available for information purposes on the homepage of the Geneva Society. Examinations are to be completed within the scope of eight semester hours per week during the semester.

Information about the application

Prizes

The Geneva Society awards three prizes annually to promote outstanding legal achievements at the University of Geneva. The three best candidates who have participated in the CDT/CTL program are awarded certificates in the annual remise des diplômes.

Teilnahmebedingungen

Regional Networks, Country Sections

Regional networks enable regular exchanges with other (former) Geneva students on site. Meetings of regional networks were held in Berlin and Cologne, for example. Are you interested in attending or organizing a regional network meeting? We are very happy to do so. Feel free to contact us at any time for further information.

Country sections serve to promote regional cohesion and networking among members. At the initiative of the members of a country, the board of directors can establish country sections at its own discretion.

Internship Assistance

In the past, the Geneva Society has repeatedly arranged internships (e.g. in law firms) by forwarding incoming inquiries from students to interested members. The Geneva Society would like to expand this service and asks you to send your requests to the Board.

Experience Reports

As a guide for future “Genevaers”, experience reports from current or former Geneva students will be published here. We kindly ask you to send us your contributions, gladly also with photos. We wish you profitable reading and would be pleased to receive as much feedback as possible.

In the following you will find the field reports of our two scholarship holders Arne P. Wegner (2016/17) and Lisa Evers (2015/16)

Moot Courts

The Geneva Society has repeatedly sponsored the Jessup Moot Court Team of the Université de Genève in the past.

Here you will find reports on the experiences of the sponsored teams:

UniGe – Jessup Moot Court – Report 2016

UniGe – Jessup Moot Court – Report 2017

Membership

Do you want to become a member of the Geneva Society? We are always open for new members. Simply use our contact formular below.

Network

Today, the members of the Geneva Society are represented in many legal professions, both academic and practical. Take advantage of the exchange opportunities offered by the network of the Geneva Society!

Become a member

Do you want to become a member of the Geneva Society? Then simply fill out our membership application online in English or German.

 

Support

Would you like to support the Geneva Society? Then please contact us via our contact form. We are grateful for any form of support!

Downloads

The minutes of the last general assemblies are available to download in the membership area. You will need a password for the download area. Please, find further downloads at “Experience Reports” and “Archive”

Contact

Here you can contact us quickly and easily.

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