UCL Global


A partnership changing how we look at English private law

Dr Prince Saprai describes how a collaboration with Yale Law School has transformed how they look at private law by viewing it in a more interdisciplinary way

Prince Saprai & Daniel Markovits

14 November 2019

UCL is celebrating 10 years of working in partnership with Yale University in the USA. Through many collaborations, from joint events and programmes to research projects, the partnership has benefited many academics and students and made an impact in a variety of fields.

Dr Prince Saprai, an expert in the philosophy of contract law in the UCL Faculty of Laws, describes his collaboration with colleagues at Yale Law School.

A formal partnership providing an opportunity to work together

“The collaboration grew from the 'ground up’. I and Professor Daniel Markovits, who is the Guido Calabresi Professor of Law at Yale Law School, both work in the field of the philosophy of private law.

We had known each other for some years and when we saw UCL and Yale wanted to develop a partnership, we jumped at the opportunity to organise workshops and symposia together in private law.

This seemed particularly exciting to us because the approaches to private law scholarship in England and in the USA are quite different and we saw the collaboration as a way to bring these two ways of looking at private law into conversation with one another.”

Burden sharing to inclusive prosperity

Opening opportunities for English law research

The collaboration has enabled a transatlantic dialogue on private law issues and helped to break down barriers to private law research in England.

Research in England is very traditional and law-focussed, whereas research in the USA looks at private law through the lens of other disciplines such as economics or philosophy.

Bringing both perspectives together introduced scholars from the two institutions to different ways of looking at the field. It was a mutually beneficial relationship. As Professor Markovits comments: “the UK’s style of scholarship is helping US-Americans break free from the grip that an economic orthodoxy had been imposing on private law scholarship”.

Sharing ideas across the Atlantic and providing a platform for research promotion

The two scholars co-organised a major conference on fiduciary law at UCL attracting scholars from the US and England, and also organised a ‘Contract and Promise Workshop’ at Yale which attracted leading specialists working in the philosophy of contract law.

The collaboration also gave Professor Markovits an opportunity to present the manuscript of his new book ‘The Meritocracy Trap’ (Penguin 2019) at UCL to leading scholars working in a variety of fields including law, economics, political science, philosophy and sociology (this event was co-organised by Dr Saprai and Professor George Letsas of UCL). Professor Markovits, and 'The Meritocracy Trap, were recently profiled in the New York Times - read about it here.

During this time Dr Saprai was working on his own book ‘Contract Law Without Foundations’ (Oxford University Press 2019). The collaboration gave him the opportunity to get feedback on draft material from colleagues at Yale which was highly influential.

The collaboration continues: Dr Saprai and Professor Markovits are currently in discussions about the possibility of organising a joint UCL-Yale workshop on the philosophy of tort law.

“I have discovered through the collaboration a fantastic community of scholars working in related fields to mine who have given me invaluable feedback on my own work and helped to broaden my intellectual horizons.” Dr Saprai


Yale Law School

Yale and UCL doctoral student exchange program

Daniel Markovits photo credit: Harold Shapiro