Joseph Spooner

Joseph Spooner

Administrative support: Sarah Lee
Room: New Academic Building 6.29
Tel. 020-7106-1174 

Joseph Spooner joined the LSE as an Assistant Professor of Insolvency Law in 2013. Prior to his arrival he was based at University College London, where he conducted his doctoral research on personal insolvency law and worked as a Teaching Fellow in Conflict of Laws.

From 2008-2010, Joseph worked at the Law Reform Commission of Ireland as Principal Legal Researcher on the Commission’s Consultation Paper (2009), Interim Report and final Report (both 2010) on Personal Debt Management and Debt Enforcement. These publications influenced the enactment of the Irish Personal Insolvency Act 2012. Joseph studied law at undergraduate level at University College Dublin, spending one year of his degree at Université Paris II (Panthéon-Assass), where he obtained a diploma in French law. He undertook graduate studies at Balliol College, Oxford, graduating from the BCL degree.

Research Interests

Joseph’s primary field of research is the law relating to consumer/household indebtedness, with a particular focus on personal insolvency law. His doctoral research considers the challenges to traditional personal insolvency principles and doctrines presented in recent decades by the evolving socio-economic and political role of consumer credit and the emergence of the phenomenon of household over-indebtedness. As well as works on personal insolvency law and policy reform, Joseph has also written on consumer credit regulation and the law relating to the enforcement of judgment debts.

External Activities

Member of the World Bank Task Force on Insolvency and Creditor/Debtor Regimes and contributor to the Report on the Treatment of the Insolvency of Natural Persons.
Member of the following Research Networks and Associations:

  • LSA International Research Collaborative on Household Debt and Insolvency

  • INSOL International

  • Socio-Legal Studies Association

  • European Consortium for Political Research, Standing Group on Regulatory Governance

Selected articles
and chapters in books

'Seeking Shelter in Personal Insolvency Law: Recession, Eviction and Bankruptcy’s Social Safety Net' [2017] 44(3) Journal of Law and Society [FORTHCOMING]

Many legal systems understand consumer insolvency laws as social insurance, providing relief and a “fresh start” to over-indebted households who fall through gaps in the social safety net. Personal insolvency law in England and Wales in practice functions similarly, but in terms of legal principle and policy is ambivalent - sometimes emphasising household debt relief, other times creditor wealth maximisation. This paper assesses, in the context of novel debt problems brought to prominence by recession and austerity, the extent to which the law has embraced personal insolvency’s social insurance function. The discussion is framed particularly by the escalating UK housing crisis and the case of Places for People v Sharples concerning consumer bankruptcy’s (non) protection of debtors from eviction. The analysis illustrates how tensions between conceptual understandings and personal insolvency law’s practical operation undermine the law’s ability to fulfil its potential to produce positive policy responses to contemporary socio-economic challenges.

'Recalling The Public Interest in Personal Insolvency Law: A Note on Professor Fletcher's Foresigh' in Burdette et al., Nottingham Insolvency and Business Law eJournal Special Edition Festschrift in Honour of Professor Ian Fletcher QC, 537

Book Review: 'Comparative Perspectives of Consumer Over‐Indebtedness – A View from the UK, Germany, Greece, and Italy' (Federico Feretti, 2016), [2016] 25(3) International Insolvency Review 241-244

'Fresh Start or Stalemate? European Consumer Insolvency Law Reform and the Politics of Household Debt' [2013] 21(3) European Review of Private Law 747-794

In the context of economic crisis and widespread household over-indebtedness, this paper examines the varying rate and extent of evolution of consumer insolvency laws in a selection of European countries, in order to identify the factors that influence the degree to which the law can respond to the conditions of the modern consumer credit society. I begin by examining the key features of the selected laws, including the newly enacted Irish Personal Insolvency Act 2012. I consider potential explanations for differences in national laws advanced by commentators and policymakers, in order to examine whether national legal traditions, relevant institutional structures, and cultural attitudes can determine the shape of a country’s personal insolvency law. I illustrate how empirical evidence provides little support for the idea that consumer insolvency laws are the product of such inherently national factors. Subsequently, I show how political science concepts such as political ideology, policy salience, and interest group influence appear to explain more effectively the development of these laws. Noting the politically controversial and complex nature of household debt issues, I conclude by suggesting that universal political forces, rather than inherently national factors, represent greater obstacles to reforming personal insolvency law to meet the needs of the modern consumer credit society.

'Sympathy for the Debtor? The Modernisation of Irish Personal Insolvency Law' [2012] 26(7) Insolvency Intelligence 1.

"Long Overdue: What the Belated Reform of Irish Personal Insolvency Law tells us about Comparative Consumer Bankruptcy", [2012] 86(2) American Bankruptcy Law Journal 243-304.

This paper explores comparative consumer bankruptcy law by considering the vividly contrasting bankruptcy laws of Ireland and England and Wales. I search for answers to the puzzling question of why the laws of two neighbouring jurisdictions sharing many similar characteristics should diverge so sharply both in their underlying ideologies and substantive rules. Building on existing comparative literature in the field of consumer bankruptcy law, the paper considers possible explanations based on national social welfare systems, consumer credit regulatory approaches and prevailing cultural attitudes towards credit. Finding that the relevant data suggests these factors do not provide explanations for the great differences between the two bankruptcy regimes, I therefore conclude that further emphasis must be placed on the politics of bankruptcy reform, and in particular on the role of interest groups, globalisation and increasing levels of personal over-indebtedness in generating the political pressure to drive national consumer bankruptcy reform. Thus I examine the lack of political interest in Irish bankruptcy law and the marginalisation of the issue of over-indebtedness in the last two decades; and contrast this with the new political appetite for law reform that developed as over-indebtedness was finally recognised as a mainstream concern in the aftermath of the financial crisis of the late 2000s. If, as a comparison of Irish and English law suggests, the roles of national cultural and social attitudes and economic policies have been somewhat over-stated in previous academic debate, further convergence of national personal insolvency laws may be more possible than is often thought. I conclude by identifying early trends in this direction, including recently published proposals for reform that would bring Ireland’s system in line with those of comparable jurisdictions.

'Enforcement of Court Orders (Amendment) Act 2009' in Clark (ed.) Irish Current Law Statutes Annotated 2009 (Thomson Round Hall, 2010).