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Thursday, 1 June 2023

On Friday 19 May Professor Lionel Smith delivered his Downing Professor Inaugural Lecture at the Faculty of Law.

A large body of private law can rightly be understood as a system of rules that regulates the interactions between atomistic subjects who are free to pursue their own interests so long as they do not infringe upon the legally protected interests of others. The incompleteness of this perspective, however, becomes obvious in relation to the law of fiduciary relationships. From the atomistic perspective, this body of law seems to present a series of insoluble mysteries. One solution is to realize that private law sometimes gives effect to interpersonal relationships that are not atomistic but are, on the contrary, other-regarding. Seeing this clearly helps us to better understand fiduciary law, to better understand the relationship between private law and public law, and ultimately to better understand private law’s duality.

The Downing Professorship was founded in 1800, supported from a bequest from Sir George Downing, the founder of Downing College. Previous holders have included Andrew Amos, FW Maitland, Sir William Ivor Jennings, Stanley de Smith, Gareth Jones and Sir John Baker.

Professor Smith took up the Chair in October 2022, following the retirement of Dame Sarah Worthington.