International Commercial Law

The Masters in Law programme in International Commercial Law is the flagship programme of the Faculty of Law. The curriculum provides students with an overview of the private-law aspects of international trade, with an emphasis on private-international legal issues.

The conflicts-orientation of the programme makes it unique and a wide comparative approach is taken in this regard comprising legal systems in Africa, Australasia, Europe, the Middle East, the Far East and North and South America, together with the relevant regional, supranational and international instruments.

Upcoming Event

Prof LG Mpedi, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Law, and Prof JL Neels, Director of the Research Centre for Private International Law in Emerging Countries, have the honour of inviting you to a public lecture on: GLOBALISATION OF TRADE AND THE LAW by Prof Ingeborg Schwenzer. Download Invitation

Head of Institute

Prof Jan L Neels

Professor Jan L Neels

  • B Com LLB LLM (RAU) Dr Jur (Leiden)
  • Professor of Private International Law
  • Director Research Centre for Private International Law in Emerging Countries
Prof Jan L Neels is Distinguished Professor of International Commercial Law at the University of Johannesburg and the course coordinator of the LLM in International Commercial Law. He specialises in the field of (Commercial) Private International Law. He studied at the Rand Afrikaans University, where he obtained the BCom, LLB and LLM degrees cum laude. He was awarded the Faculty of Law medal for the best LLB student and the Chancellor’s medal for the best LLM student. In 1998, he obtained the degree Doctor Juris at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, with a dissertation on the doctrine of abuse of rights in private law. His inaugural lecture, delivered on 15 August 2001, was entitled Substantive Justice, Redistribution and the Principle of Preferential Treatment in International Family Law. Read More

Read about UJ Postgrad Research Fellows GES. Download the PDF by clicking the button below:

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What If?


Current law students will be part of a generation faced with global challenges, such as energy, water, environment, urbanisation, poverty, global governance and ethics. All of these challenges have legal dimensions. Furthermore, students will enter workplaces that use data, algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) systems. Technology is already available to assist with analysing large amounts of unstructured data in order to retrieve and summarise specific information necessary for legal cases. The integration of worldwide financial and commercial markets has occurred at an astonishing speed and our law students are going to have to stay abreast of these global occurrences.

Although globalisation is not new, it is gaining momentum due to the growth of the IoT, the automation of legal processes, developments in data security and emerging technology tools.  As law firms continue to expand their footprint worldwide, globalisation will continue to reshape the landscape of the legal industry in the coming years.

With the global economy creating an interdependent world, the law governing market transactions has taken on an ever more importance. The era of economic globalisation we inhabit today is vastly more interconnected than ever before.

This is the new globalised arena that our students must inhabit when they graduate. A large part of the knowledge and skill necessary for dealing with future challenges are not developed through ‘traditional’ learning programmes. In seeking grounding concepts, theory and practical application of the principles of law, one of the University of Johannesburg’s flagship programmes, International Commercial Law, is pursuing and developing the knowledge they will need to solve the problems they will face, particularly in global private-law of international trade, with an emphasis on private-international legal issues.

Students are required to be creative and innovative, embark on critical thinking and problem solving, communication and collaboration. All these skills are needed to execute as professionals with a South African and African context, and as global citizens. International Commercial Law, is important for South Africa’s global standing and developing economy. There is not much knowledge in South Africa in this field so the Faculty of Law is addressing the lack of skills and knowledge through the LM offering, which concentrate on private-law and aspects of international trade, with an emphasis on private-international legal issues.

UJ is developing young law professionals who can adapt, innovate and adjust accordingly. We continuously encourage our students to question everything. The changing configurations of economic globalisation are forcing us to ask: What if we do not embrace change? But, just image, if we do…just imagine the growth, the possibilities, the progress!

The law profession has reached an important tipping point. The time is now. It is time to rethink how we teach law, how we prepare our students for workplaces of the future and how we practise international commercial law.

What if we could develop a uniform law for the global economy that reduces transaction costs, establishes clear rules for property and contract across borders? What if international commercial law was more solution oriented? What if nation states are to become less important in the creation of international commercial law?

Could real change be possible through globalisation and the need for uniform international commercial law? Are we ready to embrace change and technology that will help us through this maze of innovation?

Is it not time for the implementation of methods for modernising, harmonising and co-ordinating private and commercial law as between states, and to formulate uniform law instruments, principles and rules?

What if we could innovate our curriculums by incorporating technology as part of a larger interdisciplinary approach to enhance the practice of law? What if we decided today, that all our students will be well-prepared to be innovative legal practitioners and thinkers of the future? At UJ, we will continue to be catalyst for further changes and to assist future law professionals to be more efficient, productive and competitive in a global market.

Useful Links

UJ Law Library, first in South Africa, selected as a repository for international private and commercial law

Prof JL Neels