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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.

Current students on our doctoral programme include:

  • Phillip Morgan, ‘Protecting Charities and the Voluntary Sector from Liability in Negligence’
  • Nick Sinanis, ‘A Critical History of Exemplary Damages in Tort Law’
  • Julius Grower, ‘From Disability to Duty: From Constructive Fraud to Equitable Wrongs’
  • Martin Fischer, ‘Justifying the Restitution of Mistaken Payments’
  • Joyman Lee, ‘Rulemaking and Good Faith in English, Japanese and Quebec Trusts’
  • 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, ‘The Legal Nature of Pension Trusts’
Events

We are currently planning several events in the private law field:

'Commercial Contracts: Recent Developments' (May 2021) - a one-day conference jointly organised with members of the UCL Centre for Commercial Law; confirmed speakers are: Jo Braithwaite (LSE), Michael Bridge (LSE), Paul S Davies (UCL), Catharine MacMillan (KCL), Janet O’Sullivan (Cambridge), Ed Peel (Oxford), Graham Penn (UCL), and Rob Stevens (Oxford).

'Intermediaries in Commercial Law' (June 2021) - a two-day conference jointly organised with members of the UCL Centre for Commercial Law. This will be the first in a biennial series of conferences on different aspects of commercial law, arranged in collaboration with City University of Hong Kong, Notre Dame Law School and the National University of Singapore.

‘New Directions in Private Law Theory’ (November 2021) - this two-day conference will showcase the work of private law theorists from around the world, many at an early stage of their academic careers; it will be funded by a £15,000 grant from the Society of Legal Scholars which has adopted the event as one of its Annual Seminars for 2021. Confirmed speakers are Fabiana Bettini (UCL), Leo Boonzaier (Oxford), Mala Chatterjee (NYU), Edit Deutch (KCL), Martin Fischer (UCL), Samantha Godwin (Yale), Sarah Hamill (TCD), Jeevan Hariharan (UCL), Johanna Jacques (Durham), Pablo Cibie Letelier (Edinburgh), Jed Lewinsohn (Pittsburgh), Timothy Liau (NUS), Joaquín Reyes Barros (Edinburgh), Nick Sinanis (UCL / Monash), Ohad Somech (Tel Aviv), Beth Valentine (North Dakota), and Aness Webster (Nottingham).

‘The History of Equity in England’ (April 2022) – this two-day workshop will discuss papers spanning a period from the reign of Richard III to the Judicature Acts. Confirmed speakers are Sir John Baker (Cambridge), Astron Douglas (Cambridge), Laura Flannigan (Cambridge), David Foster (UCL), Joshua Getzler (Oxford), Julius Grower (Cambridge), Ashley Hannay (Cambridge), David Ibbetson (Cambridge), Emily Ireland (Adelaide), Neil Jones (Cambridge), Michael Lobban (LSE), Joanna McCunn (Bristol), Catharine MacMillan (KCL), Mike Macnair (Oxford), Lorenzo Maniscalco (Cambridge), Charles Mitchell (UCL), Helen Saunders (Cambridge), Fleur Stolker (Oxford), Andreas Televantos (Oxford), and Stephen Waddams (Toronto).

‘Legal Innovations in the Offshore Trusts World’ (May 2022) – this one-day workshop will be undertaken in collaboration with Wilberforce Chambers

In past years we have hosted many lectures, seminars and workshops in the field of private law. We have also hosted 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) and The Contents of Commercial Contracts: Terms Affecting Freedoms (2019).

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

Our 2020 Obligations workshop was postponed owing to COVID-19 restrictions and is now scheduled to take place in April 2021, when papers will be given by the following speakers: Judith Skillen (Nottingham), Stephen Bogle (Glasgow), Fleur Stolker (Oxford), Thijmen Nuninga (Leiden), Niamh Connolly (UCL), Samuel Beswick (UBC)

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.