Poll shows poor knowledge of EU law

ONLY 33 per cent of European lawyers received instruction in EU law at university and two in three consider their knowledge inadequate, a Gallup poll has shown.

The survey, which was carried out for the European Commission, canvassed 635 lawyers throughout the 12 European Union member states.

It reveals that 48 per cent did not have the opportunity to study community law because it was not included in the curriculum, and only 30 per cent have had post-graduate training in the area.

However the poll – entitled 'Lawyers and the community law' – claims that one third of lawyers refer to community law during the course of their “routine professional practice”.

Forty-one per cent say they do not know where to find quality information on the subject and 65 per cent say lack of time is the prime obstacle to any improvement of their knowledge.

The majority claim it is difficult to access the decisions and communications of the European Commission and directives, rulings, European Court decrees and national legislative transpositions are also hard to obtain.

There is overwhelming support for the inclusion of community law in the legal syllabus, with 71 per cent saying it must be a condition for entering the legal profession. Sixty eight per cent of those surveyed say it should also be a compulsory study area for magistrates.

Patrick Oliver, the Law Societies Brussels representative, says the commission has established a “team of experts” – which met for the first time last week – with the aim of devising specific proposals to address the problems identified in the survey.

“I hope the commission is going to come forward with some proposals which will help remedy the inadequacies that Europe's legal profession has identified itself,” says Oliver.

“The important thing to note is that the Law Society is ahead of the survey in some respects because the teaching of community law will very soon become compulsory in England and Wales.

“But compulsory continuing education must also be for lawyers a source of improving and refreshing their knowledge in community law.”