It is now twenty years since the publication of La Porta et al’s “Law and Finance” paper in the Journal of Political Economy. Although the methodology used in early law and finance papers attracted various criticisms, the finding that levels of investor protection vary systematically by legal family and are strongest (at least for some measures of protection) in common law systems has proved highly influential. One of the dominant explanations advanced for the apparent persisting influence of legal origin is the judiciary, and in particular the idea that the judge in a common law system is best positioned to adapt legal rules to changes in market conditions (Beck, Demirgüç-Kunt and Levine, 2003). It has been suggested that “financial markets may be an area where the adaptability of judge-made rules, as exemplified by the American Delaware courts, is especially beneficial” (La Porta, Lopez-de-Silanes, Shleifer, 2008). This claim, which reprises ideas about the adaptive capacity of the common law that featured in foundational law and economics literature, has largely been developed through historical analysis of the evolution of courts in particular colonising jurisdictions, rather than through (e.g.) contemporary comparative studies of the functioning of courts.

This academic year the Oxford Law Faculty will host a special lecture series in which judges from apex courts in common law jurisdictions will offer their reflections on the role of the judge in the regulation of commerce and finance, having regard to the experiences of recent financial crises. The first of these lectures will be given by Geoffrey Ma, Chief Justice of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, on Wednesday November 7. Other speakers in the series include Lord Briggs (Supreme Court) and Justice James Edelman (Australian High Court). The series is generously sponsored by the Bapsybanoo Marchioness of Winchester Trust, the Travers Smith Fund, and the Commercial Law Centre, Harris Manchester College, Oxford. 

All lectures in the series are open to the public. To register to attend Ma CJ’s lecture on November 7, email clc@hmc.ox.ac.uk.