European Law Students' Association

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The European Law Students' Association
ELSA Logo.png
Motto"A just world in which there is respect for human dignity and cultural diversity"
FormationMay 4, 1981; 38 years ago (1981-05-04)
PurposeTo contribute to legal education, to foster mutual understanding and to promote social responsibility of law students and young lawyers.
HeadquartersBlv. Général Jacques 239, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
Region served
Mainly Europe – projects worldwide
50,000 members in 44 countries[1]
Official language
President of ELSA International
Diomidis Afentoulis
Main organ
International Council
RemarksClaims to be the world's largest independent, non-political and non-profit law students' association

The European Law Students' Association (ELSA) is an international, independent, non-political, non-profit, non-governmental organisation run by and for law students. ELSA-activities comprise a large variety of academic and professional events that are organised to fulfill the stated vision of ELSA.


Five law students from Austria, Hungary, Poland and West Germany founded ELSA on 4 May 1981. It claims to be the world's largest independent law students association and to be represented at nearly 375 law faculties in 44 countries[2] across Europe with membership of some 50,000 students and young lawyers.[3]

ELSA-activities comprise a large variety of academic and professional events that are organised to fulfill the stated vision of ELSA and in order to provide its members opportunities to enhance their skills and to interact with each other.


ELSA is organized into local member groups active at university level (Local Group), national member groups active on a national level (National Group), and ELSA International active on an international level.

Membership of ELSA for individual law students is possible through the Local Groups (for instance ELSA Leiden[4]). The Local Groups are member of a National Group (for instance ELSA the Netherlands[5]). The National Groups are part of the international ELSA network, which is managed by ELSA International with headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. ELSA International consists of the International Board, the ELSA International Team, and the Auditors of ELSA.[6]

The International Board is the supreme executive body of the association. Its members are elected at an International Council Meeting (ICM) (which consists of all the National Groups) for a one-year period. The International Board's responsibilities include the overall co-ordination of the organisation as a whole including the support of member groups both locally and nationally. The International Board also co-ordinates and develops ELSA's collaboration with various international organisations and institutions, governments, law firms, and companies across Europe.


ELSA's 350 university-based local groups and 44 national groups as well as the international board are entirely student-managed and administered. Similar to a small franchise, each group creates its own plan of operation in line with the overall goals of the association. Each group recruits and trains its volunteer executives and markets ELSA's programmes to the academic and business community. In combination with the university curriculum, ELSA prepares its members for their future entry into professional life, especially when working in an international environment. The philosophy of ELSA is defined by the following statements regarding its vision, purpose, and means[7]:

"A just world in which there is respect for human dignity and cultural diversity".

"To contribute to legal education, to foster mutual understanding and to promote social responsibility of law students and young lawyers".


  • Providing opportunities for law students and young lawyers to learn about other cultures and legal systems in a spirit of critical dialogue and scientific co-operation.
  • Assisting law students and young lawyers to be internationally minded and professionally skilled.
  • Encouraging law students and young lawyers to act for the good of society.

Institutional relations[edit]

ELSA has gained consultative status with several United Nations bodies. In 1994, ELSA was granted Consultative Status in Category C in UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)[8], and in 1997 ELSA obtained Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC (United Nations Economic and Social Council)[9]. In addition UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law) is inviting ELSA delegations to participate in their sessions.[citation needed]

ELSA was part of the Diplomatic Conference of 1998 in Rome where the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was adopted to establish the International Criminal Court. ELSA participated with a delegation as an NGO represented by an observer.[10]

In 2000, ELSA was granted Participatory Status with the Council of Europe[11]. This cooperation was further widened with the signing of a Human Rights Partnership between Council of Europe and ELSA in 2008[12].

Furthermore, ELSA has a co-operation agreement with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).[citation needed] In October 2005, ELSA obtained Observer Status with WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)[13].

Since 2002, ELSA organizes the John H. Jackson Moot Court Competition (formerly known as ELSA Moot Court Competition) with the support of the WTO.[14] The final round is held at the WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.[15]


ELSA's activities include the organization of:

ELSA Network[edit]

ELSA has members and observers in Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.[17]

Furthermore, ELSA co-operates with other student organisations across the world, for instance the Asian Law Students' Association (ALSA) in Asia.[18]


Synergy is a biannual publication that is printed in 10,000 copies and distributed throughout the network.[19] It contains articles written by members, academics and institutions. The magazine was first published as a newsletter back in 1987.


Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, is patron of ELSA. Roberto Azevedo, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, is patron of the John H. Jackson Moot Court Competition.[20]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]