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THE UK: Subject Guides

Examining Company Law and Corporate Governance in the UK

Company Law and Corporate Governance Professor Andrew Johnston, talks about the course he teaches, including why it is so relevant today in light of the 2008 economic crisis.

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‘The economy’.

It seems to be the go-to reason/excuse/justification for a lot of questions asked today: Why are sports events not drawing as many spectators to games? Why are more young adults remaining in the family home for longer? Why are some older individuals working longer because they cannot rely on their pension?


So how did we get to this point? What occurred in offices in a few high rise buildings which impacted millions and millions of lives around the world following the 2008 economic crisis? Andrew Johnston, Professor of Company Law and Corporate Governance at the School of Law, University of Sheffield, tells us more about the course he teaches, which addresses this question, what happens when corporations misbehave and other areas.


What one aspect of the course you teach do you personally look forward to each year, and why?

‘I particularly look forward to teaching Corporate Governance because it encourages students to reflect on the role of companies in society, and to question how they are controlled and regulated. This is a particularly topical subject, with corporate governance at the heart of a number of major scandals in recent years. We explore those scandals and the role played in them by corporate governance, and examine how the law responded to them.


We also ask difficult questions about whether corporations should contribute to sustainability and take responsibility for the impacts their operations have on societies. I find that students really enjoy getting to grips with these complex, contemporary topics. Many of them go on to write their dissertation on some aspect of corporate governance, which makes me very happy because I know that I have inspired them.’


Tell us a bit about the faculty or staff in the department, and where they come from.

‘We have a number of recently appointed professors, including myself! Although I am English, I moved to Sheffield from Brisbane in Australia. Professor Robert Burrell, who is a leading expert on Trademarks and Copyright, has also just joined us from Australia. Together we direct the new LLM in Corporate and Commercial Law which draws on Sheffield’s long-standing reputation in this field.


We have other staff who specialise in teaching and researching finance and banking, e-commerce, corporate social responsibility, commercial contracts and regulation. Many of our staff have experience of legal practice in national and international law firms, so are able to combine the theoretical and practical aspects of law. Our Corporate and Commercial law team is very strong, and we enjoy giving students their first taste of serious research when they write their dissertations.


We also invite leading practitioners to the school, to share their experiences of how corporate and commercial law works in a practical setting. We recently appointed as Advanced Visiting Fellow a researcher who has twenty years’ experience working for a major investment bank, and I am looking forward to him sharing stories and insights with the students we have on our corporate and commercial law programmes.’


Why is it an exciting time for prospective students to move into your field?

‘Our LLM in Corporate and Commercial Law is both practical and highly critical. We train our students to be rigorous in legal method, but we also equip them to critique the law. This is really important since the financial crisis, because of many of the assumptions made by academics and policy makers are now being called into question. Learning about the corporate and commercial world through a critical lens is empowering. There is a great opportunity for all of us to have an impact on policy because there is a need for new ideas about how things should be done in the future.’


Can you give a few examples of the roles and positions which graduates have gone onto?

‘The School of Law at Sheffield is over 100 years old. Our graduates have gone into careers in the UK legal profession as both solicitors and barristers, as well as in legal practice in many other countries around the world. Many have also used their qualification to enter into careers working for NGOs, companies, governments, banks and academia.


We encourage our graduates to stay in touch with us and feel proud when they come back and speak to our current students about the great opportunities their education has given them access to. The current Chief Justice of Malaysia studied Law at the University of Sheffield, as did the managing partner of Clifford Chance (one of the world’s largest law firms), three current Court of Appeal justices and prize-winning novelists Hilary Mantel and Lee Child.’


Useful links:

Browse Company Law courses and Corporate Governance courses

Browse all Law courses in the UK

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