Private Law in the 21st Century Conference

Private law in the 21st Century was a conference hosted by the Centre on 14 -15 December 2015 featuring internationally renowned keynote speakers: 

  • Professor Andrew Burrows, University of Oxford
  • Professor Hugh Collins, University of Oxford
  • Professor Hanoch Dagan, University of Tel Aviv
  • The Hon Justice James Edelman, High Court of Australia
  • Professor Ken Oliphant, University of Bristol
  • Professor Henry Smith, Harvard University

Download the conference programme.

Conference Aims and Themes

The purpose of this conference was to provide a forum for the identification and debate of the key questions and challenges that private law is likely to face, nationally and internationally in the 21st century, setting a clear agenda for legal practitioners, the legal academy and policy-makers within the field.

The challenges face by the law are procedural, ethical, substantive, doctrinal, and theoretical. Practitioners are faced with increased complexity, overlap, statutory intervention, and the proliferation of information and accessible case precedents. At the same time, the litigation system must grapple with priorities of economy, de-formalisation and access to justice, and with new demands and interests, both public and private. Some of the challenges are ones about the co-ordination of complex rules and diverse sources of law. Other, more fundamental questions relate to the proper nature and scope of private law entitlements in the changed conditions of the twenty-first century. Personal autonomy in the form of rights, freedoms and protected interests is regarded as more important than ever in liberal societies, but often runs up against new social and economic pressures. The relationship between private law, insurance systems and systems of public regulation is also in a renewed state of flux. What are the priorities for private law in the current environment and who (judges, legislators?) should best engage with them?

Private law challenges explored

  • Contemporary Challenges for Litigation Practice, Ethics and Access to Justice
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution – the benefits and risks
  • Complex interactions between Private Law, Regulatory and Insurance Systems
  • New Interests and Technologies – bitcoin, privacy protection and new forms of property
  • Law Reform - the relationship between the common law, statutes, codes and Restatements
  • Challenges in Contract, Commercial and Consumer Law
  • The Management of Trusts and Money in the C21st
  • Private Law and “Fundamental Rights”
  • Damages

andrew_burrowsProfessor Andrew Burrow QC
FBA, DCL, University of Oxford

Professor Andrew Burrows is currently Professor of the Law of England at Oxford University and a Senior Research Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He is an Honorary Bencher of the Middle Temple, a member of the Civil Committee of the Judicial Studies Board of England and Wales, a Recorder on the South-Eastern Circuit in England and a door tenant of Fountain Court Chambers in London. He formerly served as a Law Commissioner for England and Wales from 1994-1999 and held the post of Norton Rose Professor of Commercial Law and a Fellow of St. Hugh's College, Oxford. He was also Honorary Director of Oxford University Law Foundation. Besides Oxford, he has held previous academic posts at University College, London and the University of Manchester and been a Visiting Professor at Bond University (1994) and a Research Fellow at the Australian National University (1994).

Professor Burrows has written widely in the field of private law, with particular focus on the law of contract, tort, restitution and civil remedies. He is the author of numerous leading works, including The Law of Restitution (3rd edn, OUP, 2011); Remedies for Torts and Breach of Contract (3rd edn, OUP, 2004); Clerk and Lindsell on Torts (20th edn, Thomson Reuters, 2010); Chitty on Contracts (30th edn, Thomson Reuters, 2008); Anson’s Law of Contract(29th edn, OUP, 2010)(with J Beatson and J Cartwright); A Restatement of the English Law of Unjust Enrichment(Oxford, 2012) and A Casebook on Contract (4th edn, 2013). He is the general editor of English Private Law (3rd edn, OUP, 2013). He has also edited several edited works and published in leading international legal journals such as the Law Quarterly ReviewOxford Journal of Legal StudiesBoston University Law Review and the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review.


Professor Hugh CollinsProfessor Hugh Collins
BCL, LLM, MA, FBA, Vinerian Professor of English Law, University of Oxford

Professor Collins is the Vinerian Professor of English Law and a Fellow of All Souls College, at Oxford University. Prior to this, he held the positions of Professor of English Law at the London School of Economics (1991 to 2013) and fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford (1976 to 1991). He also held the Franqui Cahir at the University of Leuven, Belgium from 2012-13. He is the distinguished former general editor of the Modern Law Review, the co-founder of the European Review of Contract Law and the founder of the Society for European Contract Law. His research interests span the fields of employment law, contract and commercial law, and legal theory. Most recently, he has examined the application of human rights principles to the workplace relationships; the development of European Community contract law; and the idea of networks as a hybrid form of business organisation. He is the highly distinguished author of numerous books and articles on the law and regulation of contracts, labour law and European contract law, including: Labour Law(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Networks as Connected Contracts, by Gunther Teubner (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2011); Employment Law, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); The European Civil Code: The Way Forward (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008); The Law of Contract, 4th ed. (London: Butterworths, 2003); Regulating Contracts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) and Justice in Dismissal (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).


Professor Hanoch DaganProfessor Hanoch Dagan
University of Tel-Aviv

Hanoch Dagan is the Stewart and Judy Colton Professor of Legal Theory and Innovation and former dean of Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law. He also served as the founding director of the Zvi Meitar Center for Advanced Legal Studies, the director of The Cegla Center for Interdisciplinary Research of the Law, and the editor in chief of Theoretical Inquiries in Law

Professor Dagan is the author of six books, including Reconstructing American Legal Realism & Rethinking Private Law Theory (Oxford University Press, 2013) Properties of Property (Wolters Kluwer, 2012) (with Gregory S. Alexander); Property: Values and Institutions (Oxford University Press, 2011); The Law and Ethics of Restitution (Cambridge University Press, 2004) and Unjust Enrichment: A Study of Private Law and Public Values(Cambridge University Press, 1997). He has also written more than 60 articles in major law reviews and journals, including the Yale Law Journal, the Columbia Law Review, the New York University Law Review, the Michigan Law Review, the California Law Review, and the Virginia Law Review. Professor Dagan is now working on a new book –Freedom of Contracts: The Choice Theory of Contractual Obligation (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2016) (with Michael A. Heller) 

Professor Dagan has been a visiting professor at Yale Law School, Columbia Law School, The University of Michigan Law School, UCLA Law School, Cornell University Law School, and the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. He is a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute and a member of the American Law Institute and the International Academy of Comparative Law. He obtained his LL.M. and J.S.D. from Yale Law School after receiving his LL.B., summa cum laude, from Tel Aviv University.


The Hon Justice James EdelmanHon Justice James Edelman
High Court of Australia

The Hon Justice James Edelman is a judge of the High Court of Australia. He was previously a judge of the Federal Court of Australia, and the Supreme Court of Western Australia. He obtained his degrees of Bachelor of Economics (1995), Bachelor of Laws (first class honours 1996) from the University of Western Australia, a Bachelor of Commerce from Murdoch University (1997). He was Associate to his Honour Justice Toohey, of the High Court of Australia, in 1997 and completed his articles with Blake Dawson Waldron. He was admitted to practice in Western Australia in 1998.

Justice Edelman was awarded a Rhodes scholarship in 1998 and obtained a Doctor of Philosophy in Law (2001) from the University of Oxford. He took up a teaching position at Keble College, Oxford University in 2005, and was appointed Professor of the Law of Obligations at Oxford in 2008. At Oxford, he taught the subjects of restitution, commercial remedies, trusts, torts, contract and Roman law. He is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Queensland and the University of Western Australia. He is also a Conjoint Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales.

He practised as a barrister at the Chambers of Mr Malcolm McCusker QC in Perth from 2001, and at One Essex Court at the English Bar from 2008.

He has written or edited books on damages, unjust enrichment, interest awards, equity, and torts, including Gain-Based Damages (Hart, 2002) and Unjust Enrichment in Australia (OUP, 2007) (with Elise Bant). He also continues to publish prolifically in leading law journals.

Professor Ken OliphantProfessor Ken Oliphant
University of Bristol

Ken Oliphant is Professor of Tort Law at the University of Bristol Law School and former Director of the Institute for European Tort Law in the Austrian Academy of Sciences. He is the founding General Editor of the Journal of European Tort Law, UK correspondent of the Torts Law Journaland a member of the editorial advisory board of the Journal of Professional Negligence and theJournal of Law and Society. He is a member of the European Group on Tort Law (and leading its current project on public authority liability), the European Law Institute, and the American Law Institute (for which he is currently an Adviser on the Restatement Third of Torts: Economic Harm).

Professor Oliphant’s research focuses on a wide-ranging set of topics relating to English, European and comparative tort law, and compensation for incapacity. His current projects include: A Socio-Legal Analysis of Personal Injury Claims, National Court Practice and European Tort Law (Digest Project) III: Misconduct, and Principles of European Tort Law (PETL): Public Authority Liability. He is the joint author of Tort Law: Text & Materials, 5th edn, Oxford University Press, 2013 (with Mark Lunney) and Torts, 4th edn, Palgrave MacMillan, 2011 (with Alastair Mullis), general editor of the practitioners’ reference work Tort Law (2nd edn, 2007, Butterworths Common Law Series), and editor of several books in the series Tort and Insurance Law. He also undertook the revision and updating of the title on Tort for Halsbury’s Laws of England, 5th edn, 2010.

Professor Henry SmithProfessor Henry Smith
Harvard University

Henry E. Smith is the Fessenden Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he directs the Project on the Foundations of Private Law. Previously, he taught at the Northwestern University School of Law and was the Fred A. Johnston Professor of Property and Environmental Law at Yale Law School. He holds an A.B. from Harvard, a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Stanford, and a J.D. from Yale. After law school he clerked for the Hon. Ralph K. Winter, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He has written primarily on the law and economics of property and intellectual property, with a focus on how property-related institutions lower information costs and constrain strategic behavior. He teaches primarily in the areas of property, intellectual property, natural resources, remedies, taxation, and law and economics.

Professor Smith’s books include The Oxford Introductions to U.S. Law: Property (2010, coauthored with Thomas W. Merrill), Property: Principles and Policies (2d ed, 2012, coauthored with Thomas W. Merrill), and Principles of Patent Law (6th ed., 2013, co-authored with F. Scott Kieff, Pauline Newman, and Herbert F. Schwartz). He is the coeditor ofThe Research Handbook on the Economics of Property Law (2011, with Kenneth Ayotte), Philosophical Foundations of Property Law (2013, with James Penner), and Perspectives on Property Law (4th ed., in press, with Robert C. Ellickson and Carol M. Rose).



Click here to download all abstracts, below is a list of the abstracts contained in the document. 

Author Title
TT Arvind, Newcastle University, UK & Joanna Gray, Birmingham University, UK The Limits of Technocracy: Private Law’s Future in the Regulatory State.
Professor Susanne Augenhofer, Humboldt University, Berlin. “Self-Regulation and the Interface of Consumer Protection and Corporate Governance.”
Dr Francesca Bartlett, University of Queensland Making Lawyers ‘litigate like adults’ – the Expansion of Costs Awards against Lawyers.
Dr Justine Bell and Professor Kit Barker, University of Queensland Public Authority Liability for Negligence in the post-Ipp Era: Sceptical Reflections on the “Policy Defence”
Wendy Bonython, Assistant Professor, School of Law and Justice, Faculty of Business Government and Law, University of Canberra Power Failure? The Distracting Effect of Legislation on Common Law Torts.
Professor Andrew Burrows, University of Oxford, England Challenges for Private Law in the 21st Century. (Keynote)
Professor Robyn Carroll (University of Western Australia, Australia) and Professor Jeff Berryman(University of Windsor, Canada) Offers to Make Amends for Defamatory Publications – Comparison and Critique.
Professor Erika Chamberlain, Faculty of Law, Western University, Canada Snooping: How Should Damages be Assessed for Harmless Breaches of Privacy?
Professor Hugh Collins, Vinerian Professor of English Law, All Souls College Oxford The Challenge Presented by Fundamental Rights to Private Law. (Keynote)
Tatiana Cutts, University of Birmingham Money in the Age of Ubiquitous Computing.
Professor Hanoch Dagan, University of Tel-Aviv The Challenges of Private Law. (Keynote)
Professor Joachim Dietrich (Bond) and Professor Pauline Ridge (ANU) Taxonomy and Making Sense of Complexity: Is There a Need for A ‘Law of Accessory Liability’?
The Hon Justice James Edelman, High Court of Australia Vindicatory Damages. (Keynote)
Associate Professor Neil Foster, Newcastle Law School, NSW. ‘Reforming the Action for Breach of Statutory Duty in the 21st century: Reconsidering the “section of the public” Rule.’
Professor Joshua Getzler, University of Oxford. Common Law and the Making of Financial Markets: Credit Ratings Agencies as a Test Case
Carlo Vittorio Giabardo, University of Turin Private Law in the Age of the ‘Vanishing Trial.’
Imogen Goold, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford and Simon Douglas, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford A Public Property Approach to Human Tissues (draft title).
Dr Genevieve Grant (Monash University); Dr Kylie BurnsDr Ros HarringtonProfessor Elizabeth KendallDr Annick Maujean (Griffith University);Professor Prue Vines (UNSW) When Lump Sums run out: Disputes at the Borderline of Tort law, Injury Compensation and Social Security.
Martin A. Hogg, Professor of the Law of Obligations, University of Edinburgh Codification of Private law: Scots Law at the Crossroads of Common and Civil Law.”
Darryn Jensen Senior Lecturer, School of Law, University of the South Pacific Constructive Trusteeship –The perils of Statutory Formulae.
Professor Tsachi Keren-Paz, Keele Law School. Compensating Injury to Autonomy: A Conceptual and Normative Analysis
Professor Barbara McDonald, University of Sydney Law Reform, Legislation and the Common Law.
Kathryn McMillan QC and Janice Crawford, Barrister at Law Is ‘Access to Justice’ Political Puffery, or Does it Mean Anything in the real world?
Dr Eliza Mik, Singapore Management University School of Law Persuasive Technologies – From Loss of Privacy to Loss of Autonomy.
Annette Morris, Reader, Cardiff University Tort and Economic Liberalisation.
Associate Professor David Rolph, University of Sydney. The Interaction of Defamation and Privacy.
Zoë Sinel and Anne Schuurman, University of Western Ontario Matter Over Mind: Tort Law’s Treatment of Emotional Injury.
Professor Henry E. Smith, Harvard University Fusing the Equitable Function in Private Law(keynote)
Professor Warren Swain, University of Auckland. ‘The Steaming Lungs of a Pigeon’, Predicting the Direction of Australian Contract Law in the C21st.
Professor Andrew Tettenborn, Swansea University. “I’ll Perform if and when you do”: The Suspension of Contractual Duties.
Professor Prue Vines, University of New South Wales Apologies as “Canaries” -Tortious Liability in Negligence and Insurance in the 21st Century.

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Private Law in the 21st Century​