A Truly European Jurist

A Truly European Jurist


by Emanuele Elli
Translated by Alex Foti

“When I look at new Bocconi law students, I see in them a passion for law that I don't remember in myself as a student”. Pietro Sirena, professor of the Department of Legal Studies and Dean of the Bocconi Law School, candidly admits it with a smile, while observing the data documenting the increase in requests for enrollment at the School (+59% of applications to the first selections for academic year 2021-2022). “When I enrolled in Jurisprudence, at the Sapienza University of Rome, I was simply looking for the way to find a good job; my passion for law came later, following the lectures of Professor Cesare Massimo Bianca and developing an interest in academic life. But of course everything was different then, suffice it to say that the impact of digital technology on law was not envisaged and even English was rarely used, because Anglo-Saxon law was considered less noble than Continental law, above all German".

How do you explain the success of jurisprudence among younger generations of students, especially Italian ones?
It seems to me that the general context of uncertainty for the future has pushed families to invest in the education of their children. To this we must add that law has assumed an ever greater importance in business, in society, even in our daily life, which today is more than ever marked by laws, rules, permits. On the other hand, the present success of legal studies at Bocconi is linked to their profound renewal, which has focused above all on the internationalization of law and the use of new technologies.

If you could go back in time, which of these new forms of law do you think you would be attracted to?
Law is a discipline that involves a hard initial phase of learning the fundamentals, rules and language, a rigorous training that constitutes a constant reference to draw on even when you have to deal with something unprecedented, as can be data circulation on the internet, artificial intelligence, electronic commerce. They are new phenomena, but the basic principles that legally govern them are the same as always. Rather, the greatest novelty lies in the international dimension that the study of jurisprudence has taken on. The law by constitution is linked to a society, and therefore to a national state and its history. Today, however, even in law we are witnessing a slow process of European integration and fusion; as with the economy, laws will also take on supranational dimensions, albeit at a much slower pace because it is easier to create a single currency than a common EU law.

And in fact, research on and demand for comparative law are growing a lot today.
Yes, but it is European law that is growing most of all. One of the main objectives of our Law School is precisely to train a European jurist, who knows how to deal with 26 states, 26 cultures, 26 legal systems, 26 institutional systems. This is the true frontier of law today and it is an extremely ambitious task. Just think of the complexity that comes from linguistic pluralism, which for a jurist certainly cannot be dissolved into a hegemony of English. Language and law are expressions of differing social realities, which must be recognized as such.

Do you feel you are a different kind of jurist for the fact that you are presiding a law school in a university that has a clear economic vocation?
No, I don't think I'm a "different" jurist, or maybe I was so before I came to Bocconi. I was a researcher at the Tor Vergata University of Rome and then I taught for seventeen years at the University of Siena and I believe that the methods of my research and teaching have always been based on the need to combine the heritage of thelegal tradition with the other social disciplines, working in an international context. This is precisely why I came to Bocconi: it seems to me it is the best Italian university for developing such a program.

What is the aspect that fascinates you most today in your research and in your teaching activity?
In our School, the ideals of building a European society and a European legal culture are strongly felt. Both as a researcher and as a professor, I strive to make a contribution to this change. I also believe that the pandemic we are experiencing has made all the more evident that the jurist takes on great responsibilities and can wield enormous power. In these months the life of each of us was punctuated, perhaps even excessively, by government decrees that established whether we could go out, see friends, open shop, travel, and we had to face the reality of those who could no longer pay rent, creditors who demanded payment from businesses, those who wanted the reimbursement of the gym membership, and all the other needs that emerged. All this has exalted the role of those who make and administer laws, but it also reminded us that law is not only the sum of public decisions, but is the set of our individual destinies.

From Coding to AI: Bocconi School of Law Looks Out to the Future

A law school that guarantees access to traditional legal professions, strongly rooted in Italian law, but also trains legal professionals so that they can read financial statements, use statistics, understand companies. The unique blend of the Bocconi University School of Law has determined success since its inception, guaranteeing the rapid exhaustion of admissions available. Today the School has 300 freshmen for the combined MA in Law, for a total of 1,500 students enrolled in Bocconi's 5-year program, admission requests have grown by 17% in the last two years. There are two directions for growth, internationalization ("we give the opportunity to do a semester of exchange abroad in one of our 59 partner schools around the world", says Sirena) and cross-disciplinarity, which is essential for staying in the lead of legally addressing the impact brought by the digital revolution. "We have started research on robotics, the Internet of Things, the use of algorithms in judicial and corporate decisions," continues the Dean of the Law School. "We also included data science and coding courses in the MA in Law in the belief that today a legal professional must not only know how to use IT tools but enter their language and understand their mechanisms and structures".

Ten Stories of Ordinary Success

Born in Canelli (Asti), Attorney and Professor of Civil Law, Comparative Private Law and European Private Law, Pietro Sirena has been Dean of the Bocconi School of Law since 2018. He graduated from Sapienza University of Rome, did his PhD in Pisa, and completed his training in Germany (“which is considered, together with Italy and France, the motherland of law”) before returning to Italy to work as a researcher. "I always tell my students that there is a perennial constant in the study of law, and it is the strong motivation required from students. Suffice it to say that you still need five years to get a degree in law; there is therefore no preliminary undergraduate step, a three-year degree after which you can leave to, say, found a startup. And then, after graduation, there is the professional internship, and the state bar examination that you need to pass. It is a long journey and you can arrive at the end of the road only if you have a real interest".

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