The Swiss Institute of Comparative Law (SICL) provides formal, written opinions on the legal position in foreign countries and/or under international law in almost all fields of law, with the exception of taxation and intellectual property. It can also prepare comparative studies, comparing the positions taken by several foreign legal jurisdictions in respect of a given topic. However, the Institute does not provide opinions on Swiss law, with the exception of Swiss private international law.
The legal opinions of the Institute present the position under foreign law in an objective and neutral manner. By the same token, the Institute is not in a position to provide attorney-client legal advice.
Requests for our services must be submitted in writing (either by e-mail or post):
Swiss Institute of Comparative Law
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Each new request for a legal opinion is subjected as soon as reasonably possible to a provisional assessment to determine the feasibility, cost and time needed to provide the opinion and a formal estimate is then issued. Where necessary, external legal experts may be asked to assist the Institute in the preparation of an opinion on a correspondant basis. The time needed to produce a legal opinion will depend on the complexity of the questions asked as well as the other committments of the legal staff and/or experts who will need to work on the opinion.
The costs of opinions and studies are to be determined according to the federal Regulations of 4 October 1982 governing the Fees of the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law (RS 425.15).
In its judgment no. 1P.390/2004 of 28 October 2004, the Swiss Federal Court recognised the impartiality and independence of the Institute, due notably to the public financing of the Institute. Its statutory independence ensures that the Institute is not influenced by the interests of the Swiss Confederation or of individual clients when formulating legal opinions.
All staff members of the SICL must apply the following principles of conduct:
- They aim to provide verifiable information in an understandable form;
- They are obliged to respond directly to the questions asked by clients, in an independent and neutral way;
- They respect professional confidentiality and official secrecy and are subjected in this regard to a duty of confidentiality in relation to all information received from clients.
Legal opinions are delivered by the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law in return for payment.
In the terms of Art. 2 of the Federal Regulations concerning the Fees of the Institute:
"For explanations and legal opinions provided by members of the Directorate or by staff legal advisors of the Institute, the fee shall be 150 to 400 CHF per hour worked. When the client’s financial interest exceeds 250'000 CHF, this rate may be increased to an appropriate extent, but shall not exceed 700 CHF per hour worked”.
There are nevertheless some exceptions:
- The services of the Institute that are rendered to federal authorities shall be accounted for in accordance with the principles which govern internal invoicing within the federal administration.
- Where legal opinions and information (…) are provided to cantonal authorities, the relevant rates shall be reduced by half.
- Where services rendered to federal or cantonal authorities are connected with an administrative or judicial proceeding, they are to be charged at the full rate in so far as the costs thereof are to be borne by the parties.
«The Institute may, by reason of the indigence of the party liable, or where it would otherwise be just to do so, reduce or, in exceptional cases, waive the charges”.