Max Planck Society

Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law

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Women in Law.
What our female legal scholars love about their research

8 March 2019 – When Marie Alwine Ottilie Raschke (1850-1935) saw a preliminary version of the German Civil Code, she realised what her goal in life was: to advocate for women’s equality in marriage law. She first pursued this goal by studying family law on her own. In 1896 she began to attend law classes in Berlin as an auditor, and in 1899 she received her doctorate in Bern, making her one of Germany’s very first female scholars of law.

What goals do the women doing legal research at our Institute today have? On the occasion of International Women’s Day, eight researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law talk about what interests them about the study of law:

 


Dr. Lena-Maria Möller
Senior Research Fellow, Research Group Changes in God's Law – An Inner Islamic Comparison of Family and Succession Laws

Law and society exist in a two-way relationship, and this mutual influence is especially pronounced in family law. What I find particularly engaging about my work as a scholar of law is the opportunity to research and provide input on the close relationship between law and society – comparatively and across national borders. Looking at other countries and other legal spheres not only broadens your horizon of knowledge, but also refines your understanding of your “own” laws.

Dr. Lena-Maria Möller
 

 

Brooke Adele Marshall
Senior Research Fellow, Regional Units: Australia and New Zealand


As a scholar and as a woman, I stand for an open and fair global society. I specialized in private international law, because we need clear, cogent rules to facilitate it. Those rules determine which country’s law should apply, whose courts are competent to resolve private disputes, and how decisions made in one country should be treated in another. Because legal systems do not always adopt the same rules, analysing them through a comparative lens offers the most compelling predicate for progress. Asking why rules differ fosters understanding, tolerance and even receptivity, which will inevitably lead to opportunities for harmonization. Honest comparison means distancing ourselves from the supposed superiority which we so often - and so mistakenly - ascribe to our “home” legal system. Equally, it requires an intimate knowledge of other languages and legal cultures, and active collaboration with learned colleagues internationally; aspects of academic life which I reckon and relish.

Brooke Adele Marshall

 


Christine Toman
Research Associate

I’m interested in the connection between society and law. I want to understand what law can contribute to solving global problems.

Christine Toman



 

 


Dr. Dörthe Engelcke
Senior Research Fellow, Research Group
Changes in God’s Law – An Inner Islamic Comparison of Family and Succession Laws

I am especially fascinated by the working process: you start out with various seemingly disconnected parts, and you slowly begin to put them together like a puzzle. The things that may seem peculiar at first become clearer in the course of this process, because human action always has a certain underlying logic. What I especially like is that my work gives me the opportunity to travel abroad frequently and engage different people in conversation. Working comparatively allows me to place things in relation to each other rather than presenting an object of research as exotic.

Dr. Dörthe Engelcke
 

 


Jennifer Trinks
Research Associate

Through my work, I want to contribute to improving our understanding of legal rules and their effects on our everyday lives. Research specifically offers us the opportunity to examine open questions using a variety of methods, and to exchange ideas with colleagues from different disciplines and countries. I find comparative law particularly enriching, as it shows us how other countries deal with certain substantive problems and legal issues and enables us to learn from their experiences with different regulatory models.

Jennifer Trinks
 

 

 

Priv.-Doz. Dr. Nadjma Yassari, LL.M. (London)
Leader of the Research Group Changes in God's Law - An Inner Islamic Comparison of Family and Succession Laws

As a scholar of law working on foundational research, I can engage in depth with the legal issues that have always interested me, and I can do so over the longer term and from a broad range of perspectives. Because my research is comparative, it often feels like an expedition to uncharted terrain, especially when it comes to legal questions concerning Islamic family and succession law. In this realm, I often encounter legal concepts and values that not only grant me a new perspective on familiar laws, but also encourage me to think about law in new ways.

Nadjma Yassari

 
 


Dr. Denise Wiedemann, LL.M. (Lisbon) Senior Research Fellow, Head of Latin America Unit

I became a scholar because this work offers the perfect mix: I can bury myself in books for days on end, really getting to the bottom of legal questions. But then lecturing gets me out of my office regularly, and gives me an opportunity to exchange ideas with students, which is really enjoyable and never ceases to inspire me. Finally, I also find that the dusty court files which I regularly examine as the Research Fellow for the Latin America Unit enrich my work greatly at a practical level.

Dr. Denise Wiedemann
 

 

 


Dorothée Perrouin-Verbe
Research Associate


I have been interested in comparative law since my involvement with the Erasmus Program in 2010. During my associated course of study at the University of Münster, I discovered that German and French law sometimes adopt quite different solutions for the same legal problem. An example is the treatment of the border between contract law and tort law, a topic which is the focus of my dissertation. French law follows the non-cumulation principle (principe de non-cumul), thereby systematically rejecting tortious liability claims out of the sphere of the contract – a rule that is unknown to German law. To carry out my research successfully, I am then examining situations in each jurisdiction where an overlap between the two types of damage claims may arise.

Dorothée Perrouin-Verbe