MSc in Law and Finance Options
Core (compulsory) courses
This class builds the conceptual foundation required for the economic analysis of corporate financial policy, competitive asset markets and the regulation of both corporations and financial markets. The course's lectures will focus on: rationality, the Coase Theorem, property rights, competitive markets, the market for risk, market failures, asymmetries of information, and aggregation of information.
Students on the Finance course study the financing, valuation and governance of firms. This course is very similar to courses of the same name that are taught on the MBA, but tweaked slightly to ensure they are particularly relevant for MLF students.
This course will cover:
- The valuation of a firm’s assets
- The determinants of a firm’s structure
- Capital Asset Pricing Model
- Pricing of financial options
- Investment and financing decisions
- How financial markets operate
- New issues of securities
- Debt and dividend policy
- Relevance of different financial institutions to the financing of firms
- Corporate restructurings
- Financial distress
The Law and Economics of Corporate Transactions (LECT) course is the interdisciplinary course that acts as the fulcrum for the entire MLF degree. LECT uses the tools of conventional microeconomic theory (the study of the behaviour and decision-making process of individuals, or individual firms) to help students understand how the legal structure determines the value of corporate transactions. LECT brings together students’ knowledge and the analytical techniques they have developed whilst studying the pure finance and pure law courses on the MLF, to create a single integrated “toolkit” for effectively considering corporate transactions. It does so by taking into account their legal, financial and economic issues and implications. LECT is taught in Hilary and Trinity terms.
- Economic theory of contracting
- Incomplete contracting and uncertainty
- Information costs and adverse selection
- Strategic behaviour
- Agency costs
- Transactional ethics
- Hold-up costs
- Law and economics of law firms
In the third and final term, students have to apply their studies to five well-known, real-life transactions, which is why LECT is often referred to as the “Deals course”. Students split into groups and use the theoretical materials from LECT and their finance courses, as well as what they have studied in their law electives to analyse the legal, financial, and economic issues raised by the transactions. Each group presents its work on a particular transaction to their classmates, Faculty members, and the practitioners who worked on the transaction; then, the practitioners respond to give their views and explain what happened in the real deal.
Law & Finance Options
Not every option will be available every year
Business taxation is at the very heart of business affairs and practice. In recent years it has also caught the media and the public’s attention following revelations that many well-known multinational companies were able to structure their affairs in a way that significantly lowered their global tax liabilities. This led to claims that these companies were paying less than their “fair share” of tax, to parliamentary enquires on the issue and even to public protests outside the retail outlets of some of these companies. At the same time, concerns were raised that the existing system for taxing companies is not suited for a digitalised economy. These and other concerns have led to an unprecedented coordinated international process of reform involving 137 countries. This process, which is still on-going, could lead to the most fundamental reform of the international corporate tax system since its foundations were put in place in the 1920s. But some countries, including France and the UK, sped ahead, introducing new taxes targeting digital giants such as Facebook, Amazon and Google, leading the US to threaten broader retaliation through tax and trade measures. International business taxation is highly politically sensitive.
All this means that there has never been a more exciting time to study business taxation. Not only is it of huge importance in practice, but we are also living in a period of unprecedented public, media and political interest in the topic and unprecedented change. The Covid-19 pandemic has only sharpened the focus on taxation. Countries around the world will either increase existing taxes or introduce new taxes to raise further revenues to repay the eye-watering costs of the crisis. This course will provide you with a solid understanding of how business tax systems work in a domestic and international setting. But it aims to do much more. It looks at black letter tax law but always in the context of the policy behind it. The course will thus set out some of the basic policy choices that are made when designing a business tax system and assess their strengths and weaknesses. In other words, it will critically evaluate the existing system and the different options for reform. It will also take a step back and ask more fundamental questions, including: Does a properly functioning international business tax system require cooperation among countries? Can the international tax system take account of the interests of developing countries? And most fundamentally, should we have a corporation tax at all? To undertake this critical evaluation and to answer these questions we need to combine a rigorous understanding of the law with an understanding of concepts drawn from economics and other disciplines that are essential to good tax policy making. We adopt this dual approach on this course. We will engage with the law as it emerges from statutes, case-law and international treaties, as well as concepts, theory and empirical results from economics and other literatures.
The aim of this option is to (i) introduce students to a conceptual approach to negotiation and mediation (negotiations assisted by a neutral third-party) and to the most important economic, game theoretic, psychological and legal issues and findings regarding the resolution of commercial disputes by means of negotiation and mediation; (ii) develop students’ skills in negotiating and mediating such disputes by engaging in role plays and other practical exercises, highlighting also the intercultural dimension of dispute resolution; and (iii) let students benefit from the experience of seasoned practitioners in the field who report on specific problems that arose during negotiated and/or mediated cases and provide feedback on students’ negotiation and mediation performance. By attending the course, students will gain the theoretical insights and practical skills to resolve commercial disputes by way of negotiation and/or mediation. The course will be taught by a combination of lectures, seminars, and tutorials, and will also feature practical workshops involving negotiation and mediation role play exercises. This option will not be available in 2023-24
This half-option provides a comparative analysis of copyright law across the laws of the UK, the EU (with a particular focus on France and Germany) and the United States. These jurisdictions have been chosen because they have driven the development of copyright law internationally (initially through colonialism in the case of the UK and France and subsequently through dominance in multilateral fora and in bilateral trade negotiations).
The course is arranged thematically and is structured around the issues and dilemmas that all copyright systems have to confront. What sorts of creation attract copyright protection? What rights do we give to copyright owners? Who owns copyright and should freedom of contract be given primacy or should authors be protected from entering into disadvantageous agreements? When does some overriding goal of public policy justify the provision of a defence? The course will look at the conceptual frameworks, assumptions and matters of general legal policy that have produced the most noticeable areas of divergence. The course will also emphasise the need to be wary of crude and isolated comparisons and illustrate how countries can use superficially very different policy levers to produce outcomes that may not be all that different in practice.
Learning outcomes: a critical understanding of areas of convergence and divergence in copyright policymaking, a solid grasp of the international copyright system (including the provisions of the Berne Convention and TRIPS Agreement), an appreciation of the philosophical, ethical and cultural differences that are said to make harmonisation of copyright laws problematic.
The course offers an analytical framework and a comparative study of corporate governance and corporate law in major economies. Corporate governance, broadly defined, is the set of legal and non-legal tools that can be used to ensure that companies are run consistently with their purposes. In many jurisdictions, this has traditionally meant making sure that those in charge of making day-to-day and strategic decisions on behalf of the company act in the interests of shareholders. More recently, a ‘multi-stakeholder’ view of corporations has started to become mainstream: these are organizations whose actions affect the welfare not only of shareholders but also of creditors, employees, local communities and society more generally.
While the emphasis in the teaching will be on legal institutions, and corporate law specifically, the course materials will also cover the ways in which corporate culture, market pressures, reputational constraints, and so on, affect corporate governance and corporate law in action.
The course will be comparative, providing students with knowledge about corporate governance and corporate law core features in major jurisdictions and asking why governance regimes in most countries display some common features and why they diverge in other respects. Closer attention will be given to the UK, the US and continental European jurisdictions, but an attempt will be made to include readings covering newly emerged countries such as India, Brazil and others. This option will not be available in 2023-24
The objective of the course is to provide students with an understanding of this area of law, together with the ability to subject it to critical legal and economic analysis. The course aims to cover the main substantive laws relating to competition within the EC, including the control of monopoly and oligopoly; merger control; anti-competitive agreements; and other anti-competitive practices.
The emphasis is placed predominantly on EU competition law to reflect the importance it assumes in practice. UK competition law is also taught, both because of its value in providing a comparative study of two systems of competition law and because of its importance to the UK practitioner. The antitrust laws of the USA and competition laws of other jurisdictions are also referred to by way of comparison.
Visiting speakers: There is a programme of visiting speakers details of which are found on the CCLP website.
Learning outcomes: a comprehensive understanding of the core principles of Competition Law and its application in the EU, UK and elsewhere. At the end of the course, students should be able to critically reflect upon the law, economic and legal principles underpinning competition law enforcement.
The Conflict of Laws, or Private International Law, is concerned with private (mainly commercial) law cases, where the facts which give rise to litigation contain one or more foreign elements. A court may be asked to give relief for breach of a commercial contract made abroad, or to be performed abroad, or to which one or both of the parties is not English. It may be asked to grant relief in respect of an alleged tort occurring abroad, or allow a claimant to trace and recover funds which were fraudulently removed, and so on. In each case, the court must decide whether to apply laws of English or foreign origin to determine the matters in dispute. This exercise in identifying the law applicable is the second of three areas around which this course in the Conflict of Laws is centred. Prior to this comes the issue of jurisdiction; that is, when an English court will find that it has, and will exercise, jurisdiction over a defendant who is not English, or over a dispute which may have little to do with England or with English law. Closely allied to this is the question of what, if anything, may be done to impede proceedings which are underway in a foreign court but which (in the view of one of the parties or of the court) really should not be there at all. The remaining third of the course is concerned with the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments, to determine what effect, if any, these have in the English legal order.
In England, the subject has had an increasingly European dimension, not only in relation to the jurisdiction of courts and the recognition and enforcement of judgements but also for choice of law as it applies to contractual and non-contractual obligations.
The purpose of the course is to examine the areas studied by reference to case law and statute, and to aim at acquiring an understanding of the rules, their operation and inter-relationship, as would be necessary to deal with problems arising in practice in litigation with a cross border element. Those taking the course will gain an understanding of the concepts and practical applications of private international law as it applies in legal systems around the world.
The limited company is a hugely popular business vehicle, and the primary reason for this is its ability to act as a successful vehicle for raising business finance and diversifying financial risk. All companies need to raise money in order to function successfully. It is these "money matters" which are at the heart of corporate law, and an understanding of the ways in which companies can raise money, and the manner in which their money-raising activities are regulated, is central to an understanding of how companies function. The aims of the course are (a) to explain the complex statutory provisions governing the issue and marketing of corporate securities, against the background of business transactions; (b) to explore the fundamental legal propositions around which corporate finance transactions are usually organised and (c) to examine the means by which money is raised by borrowing and quasi-debt and different methods of securing debt obligations. Technical issues will therefore be placed in their economic and business context. There is a strong emphasis on the policy issues underlying the legal rules. The course focuses on the forms of corporate finance and on the structure and regulation of capital markets. The course also examines the attributes of the main types of securities issued by companies and the legal doctrines which are designed to resolve the conflicts of interests between shareholders and creditors. Consideration is given to the EU directives affecting the financial markets, especially the manner in which they have been implemented into English law. Many of the issues arising are of international importance and the course examines the harmonisation of these matters within the EU.
This course will be of interest to any student wishing to develop a knowledge of corporate law, as well as to those who are corporate finance specialists. No prior knowledge of the subject is required, nor is it necessary to have studied company law, though this will be of significant advantage. Those with no knowledge of company law will need to do some additional background reading prior to the start of seminars, and advice can be given on this issue.
Learning outcomes: an understanding of the means by which companies raise money and the laws which govern those activities.
The insolvency of a company gives rise to a number of fascinating questions. Why are formal (state-supplied) procedures needed for the treatment of distressed companies? When should such procedures be triggered, and for whose benefit should they be conducted? To what extent should they be geared towards the rescue of the company or its business? What rights should those to whom the company is indebted - its creditors - have over the conduct of the proceedings? In what order of priority should their claims be paid? How should the managers of the distressed company be dealt with, in and outside of formal insolvency proceedings? In this course, students explore these questions in three ways: first, by reading and evaluating theoretical and empirical literature on the purpose and design of corporate insolvency laws in general; second, by a close study of the formal insolvency and restructuring procedures available under English law, considering their operation in both purely domestic cases and in those with one or more cross-border elements; third, by exploring some of the core features of the insolvency laws of other jurisdictions, with a view to evaluating the procedures available under English law from a comparative and functional perspective.
Students taking the course can thus expect to acquire:
- an advanced understanding of English corporate insolvency law;
- knowledge of some of the core features of the corporate insolvency laws of other jurisdictions, including US, German and French law;
- knowledge of the core features of European corporate cross-border insolvency law (particularly the European Insolvency Regulation), as well as of other legal rules that influence the treatment of cross-border insolvencies in English courts;
- advanced understanding of seminal literature on the purpose and design of corporate insolvency laws, and the ability to draw on this literature to critique the laws studied in the course, or any other corporate insolvency system.
Many students taking the course intend to embark upon or continue a career in corporate or commercial law, where an advanced understanding of English corporate insolvency law (on which the insolvency laws of many other jurisdictions are modeled) is particularly valuable. However the course has also proven to be of interest to students who are interested more generally in understanding the purposes of mandatory corporate law rules, and their impact on the cost and availability of finance. No prior knowledge of corporate insolvency law is required, nor is it necessary to have studied company law, though the latter is of some advantage.
A BCL, MJur or MLF student can offer a dissertation, in lieu of one law option. The dissertation must be written in English. It must not exceed 12,500 words which includes notes, but which does not include tables of cases or other legal sources. The subject must be approved by the Graduate Studies Committee. The Committee will take account of the subject matter and the availability of appropriate supervision. Candidates must submit the proposed title and description of the dissertation in not more than 500 words, not later than Monday, Week Minus Two of Michaelmas Term to the Academic Administrator (Paul Burns).
You should be aware that the demand for supervision for such dissertations may exceed the supply, especially from particular Faculty members, and where this is the case a potential supervisor may elect to supervise only those dissertations which he or she judges most promising. Although in principle the option of offering a dissertation is open to all BCL, MJur and MLF students, therefore, in practice it is possible that some students who wish to offer a dissertation will be unable to do so, as a suitable supervisor with spare capacity cannot be found.
The dissertation (two copies) must be submitted online not later than noon on the Friday of fifth week of the Trinity Full Term in which the examination is to be taken.
The topic of your dissertation may (and often will) be within the area of one or more of your taught courses, and/or in an area which you have studied previously. But any part of the dissertation which you have previously submitted or intend to submit in connection with any other degree must be excluded from consideration by the BCL, MJur and MLF Examiners.
Although BCL students cannot take the List III courses, they are allowed to offer a dissertation within these fields. BCL students may offer a dissertation which does not fall into the field of any BCL course, if a suitable supervisor within the Faculty can be found.
This half-option is concerned with how the law seeks to incentivise innovation. There is an emerging awareness among intellectual property scholars that we need to stop looking at the patent system in isolation. We need to understand how the IP system relates to other policy interventions that are designed to incentivise innovation, including R&D tax credits and innovation prizes and rewards. Faced with problems like climate change, antimicrobial resistance and sluggish economic growth, it is more important than ever that we get innovation policy right and this requires working beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries. The course will provide you not merely with a solid understanding of the patent system, but also how this system fits within a broader innovation policy landscape. This half-option is distinctive of IP at Oxford and forms part of our commitment to rethinking how the subject is conceptualised, researched and taught.
Learning outcomes: a critical understanding of innovation as a contested concept; a good grasp of patent law, including controversial topics like ‘evergreening’ and the role of non-practising entities (‘patent trolls’); awareness of the potential and limitations of other policy interventions as mechanisms for incentivising innovation; an introduction to debates around innovation, short-termism and models of corporate governance.
This course introduces students to the principles and institutions of international economic law. It focuses primarily on the institutions and substantive law of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), including notably the WTO dispute settlement mechanism and its substantive jurisprudence, and the main WTO Agreements, including those dealing with goods (GATT), services (GATS), the environment, subsidies, intellectual property rights, and other WTO agreements that are indispensable for a knowledge of the theory and practice (by governments, corporations, NGOS, and lawyers) of the subject area. In addition to introducing participants to the major legal disciplines under the GATT/WTO and the basic principles and cores concepts of the GATT/WTO (based on in-depth study of the relevant GATT/WTO case law), the course considers the underlying philosophy of free trade and a number of the controversies concerning the future evolution of the WTO and its relationship to globalisation, regionalism, and the attempt by States to achieve other policy objectives (such as protection of the environment).
The course also examines aspects of international investment arbitration, especially compared to WTO dispute settlement.
No prior knowledge of international law or economics is necessary. Students without such knowledge will be directed to basic reading in these fields.
Learning outcomes are an understanding of the philosophy of free trade and the law of the WTO, and the institutions responsible for its governance (including WTO dispute settlement).
This course introduces students to the fundamental pillars of International environmental law, and international climate change law, in particular. The 2015 Paris Agreement, the result of the most significant, high-stakes and high-profile multilateral negotiation in the last decade, reflects considerable innovation, with implications both for international environmental law, as well as for public international law more broadly. This course explores the conceptual architecture, principles, standards and rules of international environmental law, with a particular focus on the international law relating to climate change.
This course is divided into three parts. The first part focuses on the nature, evolution, sources and principles of international environmental law as well as key institutions and actors, tools and techniques, and compliance mechanisms. The second part engages in an in-depth case study of the climate change regime, and the third part is a practical component in multilateral environmental treaty-making.
This course, jointly offered by the Law Faculty and the Department of Computer Science, will introduce students from both backgrounds to the terrain at the boundaries of their two disciplines. The overarching theme is understanding law and computer science at their intersection.
Financial regulation is subject to rapid change, and its optimal content is hotly debated. This course will introduce you to the underlying principles which various forms of financial regulation seek to implement. Students completing this course will be able to understand the regulatory goals of market efficiency, investor protection, the safety and soundness of financial institutions, and the promotion of financial stability and competition, along with the principal regulatory strategies that are employed to try to achieve these objectives in relation to financial markets and institutions.
Learning outcomes: an understanding of the functions of the financial system and the primary financial markets and institutions through which these functions are performed; an understanding of the core principles and objectives which govern financial regulation; an understanding of the regulatory strategies for achieving these objectives and the policy debates that surround them; the capacity to assess critically new developments in financial regulation and their implementation in novel contexts.
This half-option focuses on the foundational concepts that underpin the intellectual property system; a system that James Boyle has described as providing ‘the legal form of the information age’. The course will be divided into two parts.
The first part will explore the foundational ideas that we use to justify affording exclusive rights over some forms of intellectual labour but not others. We look at concepts like ‘originality’ and ‘novelty’ as preconditions for protection, and consider the relationship between these ideas and whether they make sense. We explore why intellectual property scholars are concerned about so-called ‘overlaps’ (i.e. that some forms of intellectual labour may attract more than one form of protection) even though similar concerns do not feature prominently in other areas of the law. We also look at the different options for delineating the boundaries of protection: sometimes we rely on limits to the scope or duration of rights, whilst at other times we use exceptions or defences to preserve public interest values. Finally, we consider the relationship between intellectual property systems and private ordering: to what extent can social norms and contract substitute for intellectual property protection; conversely when and why do we allow intellectual property rules to trump freedom of contract.
The second part of the course identifies four lenses through which intellectual property law might be viewed. This reflects our overall aim of equipping you with the tools to analyse and critique intellectual property rights. For example, we look at whether it is accurate to describe intellectual property rights as a species of property, and what might be at stake in that debate. Many undergraduate intellectual property courses focus almost exclusively on domestic law; but to what extent are local laws influenced by international instruments, and how has the making and content of those instruments changed over time?
Learning outcomes: to provide a critical introduction to the principles that underpin the intellectual property system, suitable both for those who have studied IP before and those who are new to this branch of the law. To expose students to a series of ideas and ways of thinking about IP that will enhance their ability to engage in critical and normative analysis of this areas of the law.
Regulation is at the core of how modern states seek to govern the activities of individual citizens as well as corporate and governmental actors. Broadly defined it includes the use of legal and non-legal techniques to manage social and economic risks. While regulation is traditionally associated with prescriptive law, public agencies and criminal as well as administrative sanctions, the politics of the shrinking state and deregulation have meant that intrusive and blunt forms of legal regulation have given way at times to facilitative, reflexive and procedural law which seeks to balance public and private interests in regulatory regimes. Enduring policy debates address whether there is actually too much, too little or the wrong type of regulation in different policy areas.
This course examines what role different forms of law play in contemporary regulatory regimes. It thereby analyses how legal regulation constructs specific relationships between law and society and how legal regulation is involved in mediating conflicts between private and public power.
The first section of the course critically examines key conceptual approaches for understanding regulation. How can economic reasoning be employed in order to justify legal regulation? Does a focus on institutions help to understand the operation of regulatory regimes? What rationalities, and hence ‘governmentalities’ are involved in regulating through law? What role do emotions, such as trust in experts, play in regulatory interactions?
The second section of the course examines specific regulatory regimes ‘in action’ against the background of the conceptual frameworks explored in the first section. In 2019-20, only the second stream of this section is being offered. The focus of this stream is on technology, and the regulatory regimes devised and adapted to meet the challenges created by developing digital and bio technologies specifically. The aim in studying these regimes is to generate insights about the different roles and expectations of law and other regulatory mechanisms, such as the market and social norms, and their capacity to function effectively and appropriately in the radically changing socio-economic environment of the current technological age.
The course thus provides an opportunity for students to examine the pervasive phenomenon of regulation with reference to different disciplinary perspectives, in particular law, sociology, politics and economics and to gain detailed knowledge of substantive regulatory law in relation to cutting-edge technological developments. It should appeal to those interested in the theory and practice of regulation, jurisprudence, new technologies, and the substantive legal fields of intellectual property, privacy and data protection, liability, competition, supranationalism, and fundamental rights.
Relationship to “Law and Computer Science” option
Regulation differs from the BCL/MJur “Law and Computer Science” option in its focus on regulation and legal solutions to the challenges created by digital and bio technologies rather than, as for Law and Computer Science, the effects of digital technology on the nature of legal work and how lawyers and computer scientists can work together to devise technical solutions to deal with them. The options will not overlap and may therefore be taken together.
The course is taught through weekly two-hour seminars - which provide opportunities for active student participation – over Michaelmas and Hilary terms. Four tutorials spread over Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity terms will also support students’ exam preparation. The 3 hour written examination at the end of the course involves essay questions in relation to the theoretical approaches to regulation discussed in MT as well as the ‘law and technology’ case studies examined during HT. No prior knowledge of law in the fields discussed in Hilary Term is required to take this course.
The convenor of the course is Dr Bettina Lange and the course is taught by a small group of faculty members led in 2019 and 2020 by Dr. Chris Decker and Dr. Justine Pila. (Bettina Lange is on research leave during MT 2019 and HT 2020.) If you have any questions about the contents, approach or teaching methods of this course do not hesitate to make contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Social Science Building, Manor Road.
Dr. Bettina Lange, Associate Professor in Law and Regulation
Brands are the most valuable assets owned by many companies and as consumers we inhabit brand saturated environments. Trade mark law provides the legal underpinnings for the protection of brands, but significant tension remains between (i) the nineteenth century foundations of trade mark law, where marks were defined as indications of commercial origin, helping consumers to find what they want and (ii) the idea that this branch of the law should protect brand image as valuable property. This half-option will provide a detailed interrogation of this tension.
This first half of this course provides an overview of trade mark law, drawing on (EU-influenced) UK trade mark law to explain basic concepts and rules. The second half is more overtly comparative, critically engaging with unresolved issues and themes of contemporary interest, such as brands and social media or celebrity image protection. This course also contrasts legal approaches with those adopted by other relevant disciplines. One prominent example is the manner in which trade mark law constructs the average consumer. Here legal assumptions are tested against the teachings of psychology, marketing, semiotics and finance.
Learning outcomes: This course provides a thorough grounding in UK and EU trade mark law, while contrasting the legal conception of the trade mark with the idea of the brand, as conceived from other disciplinary perspectives. This will entail critical engagement with the question of how far the law should go in protecting the imagery associated with brands when non-confusing associations are being made.