Tom is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law as well as a Tutorial Fellow at St Catherine's College, Oxford. He works in legal philosophy, with special interest in questions relating to method and social ontology, as well as theoretical aspects of public law. 

Tom read for the BA in Jurisprudence (2008) and BCL (2009) at St Peter's College, Oxford. He then went on to complete the DPhil in Law (2015) at Balliol College, Oxford under the supervision of Professor Leslie Green. Prior to coming to St Catherine's Tom was a Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (2015-2017). He has held visiting positions at New York University School of Law (2012-2013) and University of Chicago Law School (2019).


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  • T Adams, 'Practice and Theory in The Concept of Law' in Leslie Green and Brian Leiter (eds), Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Law (Oxford University Press 2020) (forthcoming)
    This paper challenges the widely held assumption that H.L.A. Hart endorsed in The Concept of Law a fatally flawed theory of rules known as ‘the practice theory’. In the first section I lay out the practice theory. The second section marshals evidence of the theory’s inconsistency with central aspects of Hart’s philosophy of law, in particular his insistence on the distinction between the validity and efficacy of legal rules. In section three I revisit the passages of the book from which the practice theory is ostensibly culled and suggest an alternative. Finally, in section four, I consider some of the methodological implications of Hart’s style of argument and what it says about the importance or not of conceptual analysis in legal philosophy.
  • T Adams, 'The Judiciary' in M Garnett and H Pilmoor (eds), The Routledge Handbook of British Politics and Society (Routledge 2020)
    This chapter, for an edited collection on British politics and society, seeks to provide a snapshot of the constitutional and political position of the judiciary in the early 21st Century. The first section outlines two important changes in the institutional role of the courts: EU membership and the courts’ emerging human rights jurisprudence. I argue that whilst judges now find themselves with more authority over other organs of the state than they had in the past, they do so for the most part not as a result of their own decisions but because of political choices made by Parliament. This complicates the story told by some that the modern judicial role is antagonistic to the political constitution and the resulting settlement undemocratic. The second section turns to consider the issue of the courts’ composition and the question of judicial diversity. Whilst much has been done in recent years to address the relationship between the judiciary and the other organs of the state there remain, I suggest, important questions about judges and their relation to society at large.
  • L Green and T Adams, 'Legal Positivism' (2019) Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • T Adams, 'Review of Legislated Rights' (2019) Cambridge Law Journal [Review]
  • T Adams, 'The Efficacy Condition' (2019) Legal Theory
    ‘A legal system exists’, Joseph Raz claims, ‘if and only if it is in force.’ By this he means to suggest that the efficacy of law—that is, its capacity to control the population to which it applies—is necessary for its identity as such. Despite widespread recognition that efficacy is a condition of the existence of law, however, little time has been spent analysing the notion. This article attempts to make up some of that deficit. I develop and defend an account of the concept of efficacy that is broadly Kelsenian in spirit. In doing so I address questions concerning the relationship between obedience and enforcement in an account of the existence of a legal system as well as relating the discussion to that concerning the ontological status of international law.
  • T Adams, 'Ultra Vires Revisited' [2018] Public Law 31
    This article revisits the debate about the foundations of judicial review, suggesting that it was conducted under a false premise. According to the standard interpretation of the dispute we must choose between alternatives—either judicial review falls to be justified by the intention of the legislature or else it is justified on the basis of the autonomous law-making power of the judiciary—but, or so I argue, we can only make sense of the full scope of administrative law by denying this binary constraint. Whilst certain aspects of the review of bodies with statutory powers depend upon the authority of Parliament, others find their footing elsewhere, in the capacity of the courts to impose controls of their own making on the administration.
  • T Adams, 'Law's Umpire' (2017) Jurisprudence
    DOI: 10.1080/20403313.2017.1385291
    For a book symposium on Dimitrios Kyritsis' Shared Authority.
  • T Adams, 'The Standard Theory of Administrative Unlawfulness' (2017) Cambridge Law Journal
    DOI: 10.1017/S0008197317000332
    According to the standard theory of administrative unlawfulness an act that is public law unlawful is, for that reason, invalid and of no effect in law. In this article I suggest that the theory ought to be rejected. I begin by outlining the standard theory as well as noting its endorsement by the Supreme Court in the case of Ahmed (no. 2). Having in the main part of the paper criticised the theory, I move to lay out an alternative: that unlawfulness signals not the invalidity of an administrative act but a duty on the part of the court to invalidate it. Noting that the alternative rests upon what appears to be a paradox – that unlawful administrative action may nonetheless have legal effect – I try to show why it is more apparent than real. Finally, I return to the decision in Ahmed (no. 2).
  • T Adams, 'Is there a Naturalistic Alternative? Realism, Replacement, and the Theory of Adjudication' (2014) Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence
    DOI: 10.1017/S0841820900006378
    This essay considers Brian Leiter’s arguments for ‘replacement naturalism’ in the domain of adjudication, his thesis being that we should reject as plausible the ‘normative theory of adjudication’ and replace it with a posteriori theory which best explains the causes of judicial decisions. My central claim is that his ‘naturalizing’ argument is incomplete in the following way: it is against a bad kind of philosophical theory and leaves scope for a better, non-naturalistic, account. Both Leiter’s original arguments for the position and his more recent suggestions in response to critics are considered.

Research programmes

Research Interests

Legal Philosophy, Administrative Law, Constitutional Law

Options taught

Administrative Law, Jurisprudence, Constitutional Law (Mods)

Research projects