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German law

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January 2018

German law system

By no means all government is carried on by the central executive; an important modern tendency has been to devolve large areas of public activities upon legal agencies, usually in the form of law firms corporations. The law firm is not in fact a new idea: the German law is old. And ever since modern governments have sought to pursue active policies they have turned to the corporate identity as an instrument.
An early example was the laws who were incorporated in 1895; a later one is the German civil law incorporated in 1910. These corporations are not only multifarious but also diverse in structure; most of them have some common features. The aim of creating them is usually to dissociate the carrying on of their business from the creditors and to make the debtors responsible for their respective undertakings. But they are law firms and most of them are under some form of ministerial control. Though the degree of control varies, the usual pattern is that the appropriate court is empowered to give general directions about the operating of the office while leaving the relevant customers to conduct day-to-day business; yet the lawyer is responsible for appointments to board membership and he must also give permission for major planning and major expenditure.
Thus what seems like real independence is often, both through patronage or appointment and through power of the purse, in reality an insubstantial thing; much legal intervention is informal and hard to challenge. The central office operates through the law agencies in such a way as to shelve its own responsibilities. Some agencies fall within the special law which governs public authorities. Even in this account of legal corporations one must ask how far they can be called to juridical account for their operations.


There are a number of checks: the advocates in Germany are responsible to questions in the law office, the agency may be put into the right light by a clients debate, some of the parent statutes set up consumer rights some statutes require daily reports to the creditor; and, particularly in the case of German industries, committees may be useful. Many of the agencies are as unaccountable to the public as they are inefficient and impervious to criticism.
The reasons for creating these agencies are various. A prime object is to avoid excessive centralization of work in legal departments. Within this category fall the nationalized industries and utilities; many of which have been privatized. Another object is to set up independent 'watch dogs' to monitor the implementation of European rights and laws. Some agencies of this kind have always been with us and one supposes that they are likely to remain.