Eleanor Rowan

Eleanor Rowan

Birmingham Law School
Doctoral researcher
Visiting lecturer

Contact details

Qualifications

  • LLB (Hons) - Liverpool John Moores University (Proxime Accessit Award -Liverpool Law Society)
  • LLM (General) – University of Birmingham
  • MA in Social Research – University of Birmingham

Biography

The topic of undue influence has intrigued me since my second year of my LLB; I then re-visited the subject during my taught LLM at the University of Birmingham in the ‘Banking Law’ module. Having then completed a dissertation on the subject, I realised there was a lacuna in the literature on this topic on how protective procedures are delivered to sureties by representatives of banks and solicitors. With the support of Dr Steven Vaughan, I secured ESRC 1+3 funding for my thesis proposal relating to the ‘protective procedures’ in place for sureties entering bank lending transactions. The funding achieved included specialist research training through an MA in Social Research.

Whilst studying for my MA in Social Research, as part of my dissertation, I conducted a small socio-legal study whereby I interviewed a small sample of law students on how they chose the law firms they applied to for vacation schemes and training contracts. I have since published an article about this small explorative study in the Law Teacher in 2018.

My socio-legal interests primarily relate to the legal profession generally. I am particularly interested in professional ethics, the lawyer-client relationship and social mobility and gender equality in the legal profession. I also have a keen interest to further investigate the legal rules and relationships between banks/lenders and the financially vulnerable. Additionally, after working as Magistrate Court Administrator for a year before my MA in Social Research, I hope, one day, to complete research into the administration of justice in Magistrate courts. I am particularly interested in the recruitment and training processes of Magistrates. 

I was made an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2017.

Teaching

  • Land Law
  • Land Law in Action

Doctoral research

PhD title
A study investigating the equitable doctrine of undue influence and the ‘protective procedures’ in place for sureties entering bank lending transactions.
Supervisor
Professor Robert Lee
Course
Law PhD / PhD by Distance Learning / MPhil / MJur

Research

In the 1990s there were a plethora of cases where sureties (usually wives facing possession of their family home), brought actions against lenders for failing to protect them from the undue influence of their husbands when they entered security agreements. The House of Lords in a combined appeal (Royal Bank of Scotland v Etridge [2002] 2 AC 773), provided guidelines on how lenders can protect themselves against such claims, to ensure that they can enforce these types of security transactions where the husband defaults on loan repayments. It was held that where the lender had notice that the loan is not for the mutual benefit of the surety and the principal debtor, they must ensure that the surety or guarantor receives independent legal advice before the transaction is complete. The typical scenario is where a wife uses the family home to secure the business debts of her husband.

Lord Nicholls provided detailed guidelines on how the advice should be delivered by solicitors and outlined lender responsibilities in ensuring that the correct information, about the proposed transaction, is provided to the nominated solicitor. In summary, a surety must be advised on the nature of the transaction in a private meeting with a solicitor, without the principal debtor being present. Only when a solicitor has completed providing independent legal advice and has provided a certificate of independent legal advice to the lender, are lenders protected from future litigation under the equitable doctrine of undue influence.

Nearly 20 years after this seminal judgment, there has been no empirical exploration into how independent legal advice of this nature is provided in practice to persons contemplating suretyship. I want to explore how solicitors, who provide this advice, view their relative responsibilities and deliver their advice. I want to know if they have ever refused to provide a certificate of independent legal advice and if so, for what reasons. I am also interested in lender-lawyer interaction. Effectively, are the Etridge guidelines followed in practice? Also: How do lawyers feel about their professional risk associated with providing ILA? Furthermore, using vignettes I want to explore lawyer ethics in relation to ILA and discover where my participant's see the ‘red line’, resulting in a refusal to provide a certificate of ILA to the lender. Ultimately, how have the Etridge guidelines been integrated into practice and are these rules compatible with other professional rules solicitors must follow? As of summer 2018, I have completed my data collection. I have interviewed 28 solicitors from various types of firms across the country (but predominantly in the West Midlands), who provide ILA to sureties.

Publications

  • '"Fitting in" and "opting out": exploring how law students self-select law firm employers' (2018) 21(3)The Law Teacher 216 (Article) 
  • 'A 'Thorne' in the side for family lawyers in Australia: undue Influence and prenuptial contracts' (2018) 40(2) Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law 238 (Case note)
  • '"Fitting in" and "opting out": exploring how law students self-select law firm employers' 13th July 2018 Andorra La Velle, RCSL Working Group for Comparative Studies of Legal Professions Biennial Meeting (Conference paper)