Mindy Chen-Wishart, Fellow in Law, delivered the Fourth Annual International and Comparative Law Quarterly Lecture, on Tuesday (20 May 2014). The lecture showcases the best paper published in the ICLQ in the preceding year. The subject of Mindy's lecture was 'Legal Transplant and Undue Influence: Lost in Translation or a Working Misunderstanding?'
Legal transplant - the transplanting of law from one legal system into another - is a prevalent practice, but it raises the question of how such transplants are understood and interpreted by the receiving system. Mindy used a horticultural analogy:
"A tomato plant moved from one place to another is still a tomato plant, but how it gets on afterwards depends on the soil, temperature, wildlife and so on in its new home."
Mindy presented a case study of the transplant of the English doctrine of undue influence into Singaporean law and explored why the Singaporean courts have applied it in family guarantee cases to very divergent effect, while professing to apply the same law. She compared Western and Confucian value systems—hierarchy versus equality, the positional versus the personal, and collectivism versus individualism—and emphasised the importance of being more aware of the deeply entrenched assumptions of one's own legal system, and of those of other cultures. She added that with the 'changing of the guard' on the world stage, from the West to the East, this is a particularly important time to engage with the Eastern perspective. Mindy concluded that grand transplant theories, that present legal transplants as 'always' or 'never' possible, are unhelpful. Where law which has evolved in one society is parachuted into another, the results may range along the entire continuum from rejection to smooth reception. There is no substitute for a careful case-by-case evaluation.
The lecture, held at Charles Clore House in London's Russell Square, was followed by a lively question and answer session.