Law of the Future: Law Scenarios to 2030

The Hague Institute for the Internationalization of Law (HiiL) has set the initiative to actively think about the law of the future and the future of law.

The Law Scenarios to 2030 are very readable and their content can be applied to a variety of goals by a wide range of people such as parliamentarians, ministries, courts, international organisations, business, law firms, non-governmental organizations, universities, and other academic institutions.
The Law of the Future Joint Action Programme, initiated by the Hague Institute for the Internationalization of Law (HiiL) in 2010, joins creative thinkers from academia as well as practice to reflect on alternative futures for law and legal systems and aims to provide both policy recommendations, research agendas, and recommendations for legal training. The programme is set up as a multi-stakeholder, multi-year process. One of the instruments in the Joint Action Programme is scenario building and one of the first outcomes of the programme are the Law Scenarios to 2030, which were presented at the Law of the Future Conference on the 23rd and 24th of June 2011. Paul de Ruijter and Renate Kenter contributed to these scenarios.

The input for the scenarios came from different sources: 49 Think Pieces written by leading thinkers and doers (brought together in the 750 pages book The Law of the Future and the Future of Law), interviews with experts, and 15 scenario feedback sessions for different professional and geographical groups. The trends indicated in this material were reworked into two contingencies:

  • Will we witness continued internationalization of rules and institutions (‘International’) or will this trend stagnate or even reverse (‘National’)?
  • Will private governance mechanisms and private legal regimes further expand and become predominant (‘ Private’), or will state-connected institutions and legal regimes retain their position (‘ Public’)?

Taken together, these contingencies theoretically allow four scenarios, of which the latter possible scenario (national-private) was seen as somewhat incoherent and hugely theoretical. The three remaining scenarios were developed further to describe three different global legal environments.

The first question regarding the future global legal environments is whether international rules and institutions further expand or not. If the expansion of international rules and institutions continues, we may expect a Global Constitution scenario. In this world, the legal order will slowly develop as the European Union has been developing: into a robust legal order of its own, highly integrated with national legal systems.

If, on the other hand, the process of expansion of international rules and institutions reverses, we may expect athickening of legal borders instead, which will then, almost by definition, be dominated by state-made law (at national or regional level). This world, which is described in the second scenario Legal Borders, will probably see regional organisations emerging as part of the development of legal borders aimed at warding off the global legal environment.

However, international rules and institutions can also further expand as part of a process of shifting emphasis from law created and enforced by state-connected institutions to private governance mechanisms and private legal regimes. If they do, as described in the Legal Internet scenario, the global legal environment will be characterised by a growing body of international rules and institutions with an increasingly public-private or even private nature.

The Law of the Future Forum and Conference, where representatives from government, business and civil society met, will produce actionable recommendations for policy (what should be done?), research (what don’t we know) and legal education (what should be taught?). Consequently, the Law of the Future Monitoring Mechanism will be developed to monitor which (aspects of the) scenarios are unfolding or not.