UCL Faculty of Laws


Prof Ben Mcfarlane

Honorary Professor

Faculty of Laws


Joined UCL
1st Jul 2012

Research summary

What rights do we, as private individuals, have against each other? In England and Wales, and in the many other countries that have adopted our "common law" approach, such rights are chiefly to be found in decisions made over the centuries by judges. This mass of case-law can seem confusing, even irrational. My research aims to uncover the foundational principles that lie behind the common law, and which have motivated our judges. My aim is to show that, far from being chaotic, the common law is a system of interconnected ethical principles and one of our greatest intellectual achievements.

My particular interests lie in property law and, in particular, its intersection with the law of obligations. I have written recently on the numerus clausus principle; on how to define property rights such as ownership; and on the nature of equitable property rights. I am interested in the interaction of common law and equity and have recently published a book on the doctrine of proprietary estoppel, which allows parties informally to acquire rights in another's land.

Teaching summary

My teaching is focussed on property law, equity and commercial law. I teach on LLM courses in International and Commercial Trusts Law and also in International and Comparative Secured Transactions. As for LLB modules, I teach on the Property I and Property II courses, as well as on the optional Commercial Law course. I welcome graduate research students, particularly those interested in the conceptual questions thrown up by property law.



University of Oxford
First Degree, Bachelor of Civil Law | 2000
Other higher degree, MA Oxon | 1998


Ben McFarlane was appointed to a Chair in Law in July 2012. He was formerly Reader in Property Law & Trusts at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. He is the author of The Law of Proprietary Estoppel (2014) and The Structure of Property Law (2009), is one of the authors of Land Law: Text, Cases and Materials (1st edn 2010; 2nd edn, 2012), and is one of the editors of Snell's Equity. He is a Visiting Professor at the Université Panthéon-Assas Paris II. He was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2010.