Professor Horst Eidenmüller was appointed to the Freshfields Professorship of Commercial Law in 2015 and Professor Luca Enriques to the Allen & Overy Professorship of Corporate Law in 2014. Newly-appointed professors usually deliver inaugural lectures after their appointment, introducing themselves and their work to the academic community.

The Rise of Robots and the Law of Humans

Professor Horst Eidenmüller

Robots are on the rise: it is predicted they will take one third of jobs in traditional professions by 2025. Smart robots, which benefit from machine learning, are capable of purposive actions and ‘moral agency’ and can act in a manner not predicted by their creator. But here’s the problem: law was made by humans, for humans. How should we rule the robots? Should we treat them – and other forms of artificial intelligence (AI) – like humans? Should we endow them with a separate legal personality, like we do for companies, and allow them to own property and conclude contracts? Artificial intelligence will also fundamentally change law-making and the legal profession. Expert systems can already undertake legal research, draft contracts and resolve specific legal issues. Will we be able to rely on ‘smart’ law-making, driven by artificial intelligence, to regulate AI products and services? Will robots one day become smart enough to regulate themselves? This lecture will draw on examples of AI in different fields, with particular attention to the robot closest to becoming an everyday reality: the self-driving car. The law and fundamental legal doctrines will be reconsidered in light of the exponential rise of robots as well as other forms of non-embodied AI.

Ill-timed Reflections on EU Company Law Harmonization

Professor Luca Enriques

The EU company law harmonization programme provides a good illustration of what the European Union can and cannot (and perhaps should not aim to) achieve. Whilst the degree of uniformity among the 28 member states’ company laws is still low after decades of harmonization initiatives, the picture is far less gloomy once a different view is taken of what harmonization should aim to. More realistically, and arguably also more in line with the relevant EU Treaty provisions, harmonization should be viewed as the process leading to a fit combination of the different elements, namely of different national company laws. Such an aim has already been broadly achieved. Yet, should the EU still pursue uniformity as the ultimate goal of EU company law harmonization? Various examples will be provided to illustrate why it would be not only illusory, but possibly counterproductive to aim for uniformity. Whether EU company law harmonization as a real-world phenomenon is itself a good illustration of what, more generally, the EU can and cannot do is another question, which will be purposely left unanswered.

Further information

Refreshments and nibbles will be provided.

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