This is the text of a speech given on the occasion of the Inaugural Congress of the European Law Institute in Paris on 1st June 2011. It attempts to familiarize the audience with essential features of the Institute and it does so by highlighting a number of specific challenges facing it. These challenges arise, inter alia, from the Institute’s ambition to be comprehensive with regard to legal professions, legal disciplines and legal traditions. Specific attention is devoted to the notion of legal tradition(s) and the relationship between law and language. Finally, the position of the European Law Institute vis‑à‑vis other existing “networks” and organizations, official organs of the European Union and other organizations worldwide aiming at the harmonization of law, is highlighted. Throughout the speech, a reference is made to the American Law Institute and a question is asked to what extent it can serve as a model for the European Law Institute.