Conflict of Law (Rules)

Refers to a situation where the laws of more than one jurisdiction may apply to the same transaction, action, or event, especially where there is a difference between the laws of each.  This can happen, for example, where a contract has no choice of law clause, the parties are from different jurisdictions or the place of performance is in a different or multiple jurisdictions. Conflict of law rules can be highly complex and may indeed be different in each jurisdiction. Moreover, the choice of law rules for each jurisdiction may produce different results and can lead to a circular outcome – where one rule sends the issue from jurisdiction A to jurisdiction B to have B’s rule promptly return it to A, a circularity usually described as “renvoi.” The complexity of conflict of laws can be judged by the length of the footnotes in leading conflict of law treatises, often extending for 3-5 pages.

While academic lawyers tend to find conflict of laws an area of great interest, practicing lawyers tend treat such issues as anathema and usually make considerable efforts to avoid them. Indeed, it is fair to suggest that when a conflict of law problem arises in a case or dispute, a large legal bill, and duelling academic experts offering expensive, if vague and contrary opinions, will be the most reliably predictable outcome. For this reason, and to avoid uncertainty, many international contracts specify the law applying to the contract, in what is known as a choice of law clause, that usually contains some form of the phrase:

“subject to the laws of [Jurisdiction], without regard to its conflict of law rules.”

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