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UCL Private Law Group

UCL Laws has a vibrant group of private law scholars working on critical doctrinal analysis of obligations law and property law, legal history, legal theory and comparative law.

Private Law group

UCL Laws brings together a vibrant group of researchers working on private law, whose activities include critical doctrinal analysis of obligations and property law, legal history, legal theory and comparative law.

Members of the Private Law Group have published many highly regarded books and articles in these areas, and are actively engaged in organising conferences, lectures and workshops to promote informed engagement with current issues in private law scholarship and to build academic capacity in the field of private law.

We are committed to the rigorous academic study of private law topics and to fostering constructive dialogue between different communities of private law scholars including critical analysts of legal doctrine, historians, economists, social scientists, legal theorists and comparativists.

Recent research by Group members has included:

  • the development of new theoretical frameworks in obligations and property law
  • studies of historical change in private law doctrine and its relation with economic and social development 
  • new critical insights into legal doctrines including accessory liability, tort law and its interface with regulatory rules, tracing, trustee liability for breach of duty, unjust enrichment claims against public bodies, the drafting, interpretation and rectification of contracts and trust documents, the control of pension scheme powers, the rules of private international law governing private law claims and the legal rules of several jurisdictions affecting the communal ownership of property

In addition to advancing and participating in the academic study private law, our members regularly engage in mutually enriching exchanges with a wide community of judges and legal practitioners. Our members’ work has also discernibly influenced the way in which many important recent cases have been pleaded and decided.

People

Many faculty members are actively engaged researchers in the private law field, including

To find out more about individual members of the Private Law Group, select a name to visit their profile on the UCL Laws website.

In recent years, UCL Laws has also been fortunate to recruit some outstanding doctoral students whose work has fallen within the private law field. Their contribution to the research environment of the Faculty has been, and continues to be, a highly valued one. Besides the work they have done on their personal research projects they have also helped to organise, and have actively participated in, many conferences, seminars and workshops in the Faculty. Recent graduates from our doctoral programme include:

  • Kim Bouwer, ‘Building Disappointment’ (PhD awarded, 2016) – Kim is now a Lecturer in Law at the University of Exeter
  • Nicholas Tiverios, ‘Relief Against Contractual Penalties in England and Australia: History, Theory and Practice’ (PhD awarded, 2018) – Nicholas is now a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Western Australia and his thesis was published by Federation Press in 2019.
  • Caspar Bartscherer, ‘Primary and Secondary Rights in Private Law’ (PhD awarded, 2019) – Caspar is now a barrister at Wilberforce Chambers
  • Julius Grower, ‘From Disability to Duty: From Constructive Fraud to Equitable Wrongs’ (PhD awarded, 2021) – Julius is now a College Lecturer and Yates Glazebrook Fellow in Law at Jesus College, Cambridge
  • Phillip Morgan, ‘Protecting Charities and the Voluntary Sector from Liability in Negligence’ (PhD awarded, 2021) – Phillip is now a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Law at the University of York
  • Nick Sinanis, ‘Exemplary Damages: A Critical History’ (PhD awarded, 2021) – Nick is now a Lecturer in Law at Monash University
  • Joyman Lee, ‘Rulemaking and Good Faith in English, Japanese and Quebec Trusts’ (PhD awarded, 2022) – Joyman is now a Lecturer in Common Law at the University of Glasgow

Current students on our doctoral programme include:

  • Martin Fischer, ‘Justifying the Restitution of Mistaken Payments’
  • Ernesto Vargas Weil, ‘Stability and Change in Property Law: A Comparative Law and Economics Perspective’
  • Jeevan Hariharan, ‘Legal Protection of Physical Privacy’
  • Anna Stelle, ‘Philosophical Foundations of the Contractual Doctrine of Duress’
  • Stephen Hawes, ‘Trustee Decision-Making in Pension Trusts’
  • Yubo Wang, ‘Rationality and an Interpretivist Account of Tort Law’
Events

Each year we organise many lectures, seminars and workshops in the field of private law. We have also run major conferences on Philosophical Foundations of Property Law (2012), Philosophical Foundations of Contract Law (2013), Contract and Fiduciary Law (2016) (in collaboration with the Yale Center for the Study of Private Law), Global Futures of Unjust Enrichment (2017), Modern Studies in Property Law (12th Biennial MSPL Conference, 2018), Pensions: Law, Policy and Practice (WG Hart Memorial Workshop, 2019), The Contents of Commercial Contracts: Terms Affecting Freedoms (2019), Intermediaries in Commercial Law (2021) and The History of Equity in England (2022)

We also run an annual workshop to support early-career scholars working in the field of private law. The following scholars have given papers at past workshops:

2013 (on Property) – Michael Ashdown (Oxford), Tatiana Cutts (Oxford), Ying Khai Liew (KCL), Nick Piska (Kent), Rachael Walsh (TCD), Emma Waring (Cambridge)

2014 (on Obligations) – Kim Bouwer (UCL), Andrew Dyson (Oxford), Matthew Dyson (Cambridge), Dorota Leczykiewicz (Oxford), Phillip Morgan (UCL), Solene Rowan (LSE)

2015 (on Property) – Dan Carr (Edinburgh), Amy Goymour (Cambridge), Robin Hickey (QUB), Magda Raczynska (Bristol), Luke Rostill (Oxford), Charlotte Woodhead (Warwick)

2016 (on Obligations) – Sinead Agnew (Cardiff), Rachel Leow (Cambridge), Kelry Loi (NUS / Oxford), Ewan McGaughey (KCL), Paul MacMahon (LSE), Radosveta Vassileva (UCL)

2017 (on Property) – David Foster (KCL), Mark Jordan (Southampton), Emma Lees (Cambridge), Aruna Nair (KCL), Andreas Televantos (Cambridge)

2018 (on Obligations) – Jodi Gardner (Cambridge), Joanna McCunn (Bristol), Nick Sage (LSE), Sandy Steel (Oxford), Nicholas Tiverios (UCL), Gemma Turton (Leicester)

2019 (on Property) - Fabiana Bettini (Oxford), Kate de Contreras (Durham), Sarah Hamill (TCD), Bonnie Holligan (Sussex), Adam Reilly (Coventry), Lizzie Virgo (Cambridge)

[Our 2020 workshop was postponed owing to COVID-19 restrictions]

2021 (on Private Law Theory; this event was the Society of Legal Scholars Annual Seminar for 2021): Leo Boonzaier (UCT), Edit Deutch (KCL), Martin Fischer (UCL), Sarah Hamill (TCD), Jeevan Hariharan (UCL), Pablo Letelier Cibie (Chile), Timothy Liau (NUS), Joaquín Reyes Barros (Universidad Finis Terrae), Nick Sinanis (Monash), Ohad Somech (Tel Aviv), Beth Valentine (North Dakota), Aness Kim Webster (Nottingham), Sally Zhu (Sheffield)

2022 (on Obligations): Niamh Connolly (UCL), Jordan English (Oxford), Rory Gregson (Cambridge), Judith Skillen (Nottingham), Anna Stelle (UCL), Fleur Stolker (Oxford)

Studying private law at UCL Laws

There are many opportunities for graduate students wishing to study private law at UCL.

Various private law modules are available on the UCL LLM programme. In recent years these have included:

  • Commercial Remedies
  • EU Contract Law
  • Historical Development of the Common Law
  • International and Commercial Trusts Law
  • International and Comparative Secured Transactions
  • Regulation and Tort
  • Restitution of Unjust Enrichment.

These modules may not all run in any given year. Please check the module page on our website to find out up to date details on availability.

As noted on our 'People' page we currently have a large number of PhD students working on private law research projects, funded either by Faculty Research Scholarships or by Peter Birks Scholarships, which are earmarked for the support of PhD students working in this field. For details about the Faculty MPhil/PhD programme and information about the application process and scholarships please go to the MPhil/PhD section of the Study pages on the Faculty website.