Book review: The Law Market by Erin A. O’Hara and Larry E. Ribstein.
This book describes why it has become easier for parties to a contract to choose which legal system will be applied to their contract, both in terms of the political forces that enabled choice and why it’s good that choice is possible.
The political forces include the ability of some parties to physically leave a jurisdiction if they have inadequate choices about what law will be applied to them. Often enough those parties are employers that legislators want to remain in their jurisdiction.
The benefits include simple things like predictability of contract interpretation when the contract covers things that involve physical locations associated with multiple jurisdictions where there otherwise would be no reliable way to predict which court would assert jurisdiction over disputes. They also include less direct effects of providing incentives for legal systems to improve so as to attract more customers.
The book mostly deals with contracts between corporations, and is much more tentative about advocating choice of law for individuals.
The book provides examples showing that as with most markets, competition for law produces better law. But is also mentions more questionable results, such as competition for most effective tax shelters or the easiest terms for divorce (for divorce, the book suggests those who want divorce to be hard should try to arrange contracts that allocate assets in a way that discourages divorce; it would be harder for easy-divorce states to justify ignoring those contracts). There’s also a risk that the competition will sometimes benefit lawyers rather than their clients, as clients often rely on lawyers to decide which legal system to use without having a practical way to check who benefits from some of those choices.
The book is often dull reading because it often describes case law to explain quirks of current law that will be of interest to few non-lawyers.
One part that disappointed me was the assumption that the choice of jurisdiction should dictate the physical location in which plaintiffs must argue their case (the travel costs can make some lawsuits unpractical to a consumer suing a company if the company decides the location at which a suit is argued). Why are we trapped in a set of rules that requires travel to a possibly distant court when we have technology that provides reasonable remote communications?