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Comparative Justice Systems


Admission requirements

Required course(s):



What is law? Why compare laws? Why compare legal systems?

Comparative legal research is the study of the relationship between legal systems or between rules of more than one system. Comparing differences and similarities of different legal systems contributes to a better understanding of the role of legal systems in society, broadens our understanding of how the law works in context, and helps us reflect critically on legal history and its impacts on our legal systems.

This course focuses on the study of legal systems from a comparative perspective, and gives students an overview of how legal systems work, and how they vary in different parts of the world. It introduces students to different conceptualizations of law and characteristics of legal systems, also taking into consideration concepts such as legal pluralism. The course also introduces students to different legal traditions, and the main characteristics of different branches of law (i.e., constitutional, civil, administrative, penal, and procedural law) and their main differences throughout legal systems. To illustrate the variety of law throughout the world, this course relies on various case-studies from the Global North and South. Finally, it also discusses the role of supranational and international institutions, and practices such as legal technical assistance and legal transplants, in bringing different legal traditions together.

Course Objectives

After successful completion of this course, the students will be able to:

  • Understand the diversity and complexity of legal systems throughout the world;

  • Explain fundamental concepts of law and legal theory;

  • Describe different legal traditions;

  • Explain the main differences between different legal branches, from a comparative perspective;

Building on the knowledge, the students will be able to:

  • Independently research on topics related with the course.

  • Develop writing skills, by employing appropriate and academically accepted referencing;

  • Interact with legal sources such as laws and court decisions;

  • Research and present orally well-structured arguments, using different sources and literature.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught in seminar format, including lectures, class discussion and student presentations. It is expected that students will engage actively in class discussions and debates.

Assessment Method

  • In-class participation (11% of final grade)

  • One reflective essay (30% of the final grade)

  • Group presentation (19% of the final grade)

  • Academic essay (40% of the final grade)

Reading list

A reading list will be made available before the course starts.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Bernardo Ribeiro de Almeida,