Critical Review of International Governance

A Study of Lawyers Appearing before the International Court of Justice, 1999-2012


This article provides empirical support for what might strike some as a truism: oral proceedings before the International Court of Justice (the Court) are dominated by male international law professors from developed states. In order to test this claim, our study examines the composition of legal teams appearing on behalf of states before the Court in contentious proceedings between 1999 and 2012. We have focused, in particular, on counsels’ gender, nationality, the development status and geographical region of their country of citizenship, and their professional status (as members of law firms, barristers or <it>sole</it> practitioners, professors, or other). The results of our study raise questions about the evident gender imbalance among counsel who have appeared before the Court during the timeframe of this study, as well as the apparent preference that states have shown for ‘repeat players’ and professors of public international law. By presenting data on the composition of legal teams, and discussing possible explanations for the patterns that we have observed, this study aims to contribute to the development of a body of scholarship on international law as a profession.

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