UCL Faculty of Laws


Central concepts in agency law – A CPD course

12 October 2017, 9:30 am–5:00 pm

Peter Watts

Event Information

Open to





Professor Peter Watts QC


UCL Haldane Room, Wilkins Building, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT

About this course

This one-day seminar programme on Central Concepts in Agency Law aims to develop an advanced understanding of some of the key concepts in the law of agency, a subject of vital practical importance which is rich in ideas and detail. It affords participants an opportunity to benefit from the insight of Professor Peter Watts QC, the General Editor of the leading text on the law of agency, Bowstead & Reynolds on Agency, about to go into its 21st edition. Peter has designed and will run the seminar, and there will also be contributions from members of the Faculty of Laws at UCL with expertise in commercial law.

The programme starts with the concept of agency itself: its definition, functions in private law, and its variants and relationships to other concepts. It then moves to consider in turn the two central concepts in contracting through agents, “actual authority” and “apparent authority”. Lesser known ways to bind owners of businesses and property to transactions are then introduced. Selected other aspects of agency law are integrated into the programme and relevant recent case-law will be fully covered, both on the day and in material provided to participants.

Participants will be given the chance throughout to ask questions and join in discussions, and there will be a specific workshop element to the programme, in which participants will be facilitated in considering the application of agency principles to a practical problem.

Topics include:

  • The nature of agency
    • Definition: what makes a person an agent of another?
    • A voluntary not imposed relationship?
    • The parasitic role of agency in private law: contract, tort, restitution and property law
    • The role of agency in company law, trusts law, and unincorporated associations
    • Dual agency
    • Types of agent, and contrasts with other concepts
  • Actual authority
    • How is it established?
    • Acquiescence and estoppel
    • Retrospectivity: ratification
    • Withdrawing actual authority
    • Usual authority
    • Formalities
    • Dishonesty and improper purpose
    • Duty to adhere to mandate
    • Authority to act illegally
  • Apparent authority
    • What can constitute a representation/holding out (including use of modern technologies)
    • Representation by the principal: can certain types of agent “self-authorise”?
    • Reasonable reliance, and being put on inquiry as to lack of authority
  • Constructive authority
    • Anomalous cases: Hambro v BurnandWatteau v Fenwick
    • Deeds as a method of authority-less contracting
    • Agents in possession of property and documents: mercantile agents
    • Vicarious liability for misstatement of authority by employees?
  • Remedies where agents take secret commissions

Who should attend

The course is aimed at solicitors and barristers who practise in commercial law. It will cover the basics for those less familiar with the concepts of agency law but will at the same time provide an advanced treatment that will add knowledge for experienced practitioners.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course, participants will have obtained a sound and up-to-date knowledge of the central concepts of agency law and their functions in commercial law, and will have been assisted in applying those principles in a practical context They will also have gained knowledge of some of the less familiar corners of the subject.

About the Presenters

Peter Watts QC

The programme will be led by Peter Watts QC, the General Editor of the leading text on the law of agency, Bowstead & Reynolds on Agency, about to go into its 21st edition. Professor Watts (currently on leave from the University of Auckland) practises fulltime as a barrister at Bankside Chambers in Auckland, New Zealand, and is a door tenant at Fountain Court Chambers, The Temple, London. In addition to his links to University College London, he is a Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford.

Paul Davies

Paul S Davies is (from 1 September) Professor of Commercial Law at UCL. He was previously a Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Oxford, and before that a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Paul is also an Associate Member of Maitland Chambers, and has published widely on the law of obligations and property. He is the author of Accessory Liability (Hart Publishing, 2015), Equity and Trusts: Text, Cases and Materials (2nd ed, OUP, 2016, with Graham Virgo), JC Smith’s The Law of Contract (OUP, 2016) and is a contributing editor to Snell’s Equity.

Magda Raczynska

Magda Raczynska is a Lecturer in Law at UCL. She has presented a number of papers and published on personal property and obligations. She is a Deputy Executive Director of the Secured Transactions Law Reform Project, a member of the Consulting Editorial Board at LexisPSL Banking & Finance and a contributing author to McKnight, Paterson and Zakrzewski on The Law of International Finance (OUP 2017).