UCL News


Definitely no regrets: there is life beyond the High Court

16 May 2006

There was a furore when Sir Hugh Laddie announced that he was leaving the High Court Bench because he found it boring.

A "small minority" of colleagues disapproved: one said that if Laddie returned to the Bar, he could not appear in his court. Nor did the Lord Chancellor acknowledge either his first letter intimating resignation or the formal confirmation itself. …

Like sacked Lord Chancellors, former High Court judges don't have a huge range of work possibilities. What Laddie did was to go to a leading niche firm, Willoughby & Partners (the UK legal arm of Rouse & Co International, the intellectual property solicitors), based at Canary Wharf, where he is a consultant and mediator. It means that he sees clients and can lecture: he reels off where he has been - just back from Hong Kong and India, with imminent trips to China, Trieste, Barcelona, Australia and Singapore. "I lectured a lot as a judge: my wife would say that when I came back after lecturing my batteries were recharged. But it became more and more difficult to fit in."

This week Laddie, 60, announces a fresh leaf to his portfolio. In September he takes up the first Chair in Intellectual Property at UCL: a part-time post from where he will spearhead the development of IP law courses. … The idea, he says, is to build on its strengths in biomedicine, science and engineering. "You can't do bioscience commercially without being involved in patents, so they thought it would be great for cross-fertilisation to have IP expertise and teaching."

Professor Michael Bridge, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Laws, says Laddie's appointment is a "tremendous coup". "Apart from his eminence in intellectual property law, he has strong links with practice and industry and the energy and vision to drive UCL forward in this hugely important competitive area". But for Laddie, too, it gives him a chance to "make a different sort of contribution" - to the law itself; one lost when he gave up the Bench. "One of the things that was great about being a judge was that you could say you thought the law wrong on this or that." As an academic he will have a similar input. …

Frances Gibb, 'The Times'