British Institute of International and Comparative Law

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The British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) was founded in 1958, and it can trace its history even further back to 1894. It is one of the very few independent legal bodies of its type in the world, as it is unaffiliated to any university, is a charity/not-for-profit organisation and is nonpartisan. BIICL receives no substantial on-going core funding from any government or private body and welcomes both members and non-members.

BIICL includes within it the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, which has a particular focus on the many rule-of-law issues world-wide.

BIICL undertakes five key activities:

  • Applied legal research;[1]
  • Events and discussions;[2]
  • Training;[3]
  • Publications;[4]
  • Membership.[5]

The Institute is located on the first floor of Charles Clore House, 17 Russell Square, in London, England.


The Rt. Hon. Lord Bingham of Cornhill KG, Institute Chairman; 2001 - 2010

The Institute's first Chairman was Lord Denning, followed by Lord Goff of Chieveley, who was succeeded by Lord Bingham of Cornhill KG. Dame Rosalyn Higgins DBE former President of the International Court of Justice is the current President and Chairman of the Institute.

The Institute's first Director was appointed in 1960. Professor Robert McCorquodale, who joined the Institute in January 2008, is the seventh and current Director of the Institute. In this role, he has responsibility for the strategic development and management of all parts of BIICL, as well as being a researcher on a number of the projects. He is involved in training, in the organisation of events, and is the Co-General Editor of BIICL's major publication: the International and Comparative Law Quarterly.

Institute Director

  • Professor Robert McCorquodale

President and Chairman of the Institute


The Institute's international law origins come from the Grotius Society, created precisely because the European war had nullified the work that bodies such as the International Law Association and Institut de Droit International had sought to deliver. Established as a 'British' society, its aims were self-consciously international:

"It is the welfare of the Commonwealth of Nations..., not of any one nation or group of nations that the Society will seek to secure. For International Law, if it is to have any enduring authority, must be based on the fundamental principles of human rights and must give effect to the common welfare of nations."

A brief history of the Institute was prepared by Norman S Marsh QC, the Institute's first Director, to celebrate its 40th Anniversary on 17 November 1998. It sets out the history of the Institute prior to its formal incorporation in 1958.

A copy of this document is available here

'Strictly speaking, what is being celebrated on 17 November 1998 is the legal incorporation of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law as a company limited by guarantee without share capital under the Companies Act 1948.

Sir Franklin Berman KCMG QC, Dame Rosalyn Higgins DBE, Sir Christopher Greenwood CMG QC and Professor Robert McCorquodale at BIICL Annual Grotius Lecture 2014
Even a cursory reading of the Articles of Association of the British Institute under that incorporation will make clear that by somewhat elaborate provisions a special status is given to those who at the date of the incorporation were members of one or both of two specified legal societies, namely the Society of Comparative Legislation and the Grotius Society. Whether or not their special status has been extensively claimed, or not been claimed at all, it seems appropriate for the Director of the Institute during its first five years after incorporation (who was himself before his appointment a member of both the Societies) to pay tribute to their distinguished record. To the younger generation of members of the British Institute such a tribute may be mainly of historic interest although many of the older members may appreciate this recognition of the aims and achievements of these Societies, and of the extent to which they have set an example for the British Institute.'


BIICL's research is central to its activities. BIICL conducts research around the world across the broad range of public international law, private international law, comparative law and the rule of law. This includes areas such as competition law, European law, human rights law, international investment law, and product liability law. BIICL's research often crosses traditional boundaries of law, so as to integrate private and public international law, and engages with national, European and comparative law.

BIICL's research is primarily applied research, based on strong knowledge foundations. This enables its research to have practical consequences, establish influential recommendations for decision-makers, and affect law and policy around the world.

Research projects are funded by a wide variety of bodies, including law firms, corporations, national governments, international and regional organisations, private trusts and foundations, and non-governmental organisations. In many instances, the research is funded by more than one body.


The International and Comparative Law Quarterly, which is produced by BIICL, is one of the world's law journals.

In addition, BIICL publishes many of its major research projects, some of which are available free of charge, and other papers on contemporary legal issues. It also publishes a regular Newsletter.


The Institute has three categories of individual membership; Full-time Student, Full-time Academic and Individual.

Institute members include judges, practising lawyers, government officials, regulators, international civil servants, academics and students.


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