Dr Catherine Mitchell, Reader in Private Law at the University of Birmingham

A research grant has been secured by Dr Catherine Mitchell, Reader in Private Law at Birmingham Law School to conduct new research that aims to rescue English contract law from irrelevance.

The new research will analyse why, despite its past significance and manifest influence throughout the common law world, the classical model of English contract law now faces functional and moral redundancy.

Specifically, it will look at its failure to respond to transformations in how contracts are created and enforced in modern society, and will assess the role of law in regulating and facilitating contracts, and whether it can adapt to changes in contracting processes.

From this evidence base, it will explore the reforms necessary to revive the common law of contract, and improve the alignment between contract law and the ‘real world’ of contracting experience.

Dr Mitchell said: “The role of private ordering through contracts has expanded over the last 30 years following developments in privatisation and the marketisation of previously state-owned or subsidised sections of the economy. At the same time, the methods by which contracts come into existence and create binding obligations, have become more insidious.

“This research is therefore timely and important, as we’re now in a phase whereby consumers enter into contracts through remote and automated processes, such as the internet, with little control and on standard terms with untested legal validity. In addition to this, this project will also explore the dwindling significance of contract law in the commercial sphere.”

Dr Mitchell has more than 20 years’ experience researching contract law, and her research has been used by judges in the House of Lords, the Singapore Court of Appeal, and in contract law reform projects undertaken by the English and Scottish Law Commissions. 

The funding for this 12 month research grant will begin in September 2019.