Making Corporate Law Great Again: Attending the CLTA 2018 Conference

ROCIT members Professor Christopher Symes and Dr Beth Nosworthy attended at the Corporate Law Teachers’ Association Annual Conference in 2018, held at La Trobe’s city campus in Melbourne from 11 – 13 February.  The CLTA Annual Conference is a highly regarded conference focussed on Corporate Law, drawing attendance from members of the profession and the academy in Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Europe and the US.

The conference commenced on the Sunday with an engaged session on the modern approaches to and trials with University teaching, particularly for Corporate Law.  The session tracked the developments in the regulation of tertiary education in the past 30 years, and then delivered insightful examples of current practice, including the use of pod-cases and other recorded material, interactive engagement and changes to the ‘traditional’ teaching modes.

The conference was formally opened on Monday with an Acknowledgement of Country, delivered by a current student from La Trobe, followed by a Plenary session delivered by Professor Paddy Ireland of the University of Bristol.  Prof Ireland highlighted the many issues surrounding regulation of the modern corporate form with a system designed to regulate the joint stock company, and challenged the audience to consider the history of their subject matter more closely. He pointed out that understanding where our regulation came from, and which words used repeatedly in modern times divorced from their original meanings, can have a significant impact on how you view the legal structures on which we rely, and that, for students in particular, this historical basis can be vital.

A novel initiative of this CLTA conference was the Interactive Plenary Workshop, chaired by Assoc Prof Rosemary Langford, on ‘Solving Director Duties’, where the attendees were asked to comment on two points of current concern with directors’ duties: the lack of coherence between statutory and general law duties, and the shareholder primacy model and the alternative offered by s 172 of the Companies Act (UK).  The CLTA hopes to produce a Position Paper from this discussion, which would enable this and future conferences to contribute more broadly to the progression of policy and reform in Corporate Law in Australia.  This was a most enjoyable discussion, and a worthy addition to the conference program – one which we hope will continue to be offered at future conferences.

The Tuesday proceedings were opened with a Plenary session delivered by Professor Charles Yablon of the Cardozo School of Law, who spoke on innovation economics and the challenges to the existing static models of corporate law. Professor Symes delivered a paper on “The Voice of Chief Justice Len King”, discussing the contributions made to the development of case law prior to the Corporations Act, and those cases which continue to have a lasting impact on our current interpretation of the law.  Prof Symes and Dr Nosworthy jointly delivered a paper on “The Good Place or the Bad Place: Directors in Deeds of Company Administration”, which highlighted the inconsistent approach to the powers and duties of directors during this important aspect of external administration.  Both papers were well received, and sparked interested debate among the attending academics.

At the CLTA Annual General Meeting held on Tuesday afternoon, Professor Suzanne Le Mire was appointed as President of the CLTA for a two year term, having previously served on the Executive and as Secretary of the Association.  Dr Beth Nosworthy was voted back on to the Executive for the second year.

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