Judge's wigs in shop window

Legal Biography Project



14 November 2023
Interview with Lady Carr, Lady Chief Justice of England and Wales

Lady [Sue] Carr, became the Lady Chief Justice of England and Wales on 2 October 2023. She is the first woman to occupy the position. After graduating in law at Cambridge she practiced as a barrister, principally in commercial and professional indemnity law. She became a QC (now KC) in 2003. After a part-time judicial post she was appointed as a High Court judge in 2013. She was the first ever female High Court Judge to sit in the Technology & Construction Court and only the second to sit in the Commercial Court. She went to the Court of Appeal in 2020. She was Vice Chair of the Judicial Appointments Commission until earlier this year.

Click here to watch the interview.


6 March 2023 
Legal biographers on their subjects: 2. Advocates 

Sally Smith KC obtained her LLB from the LSE. She has specialised in medical law for the past 15 years and has appeared in many national inquiries into health crises.

Sir Edward Marshall Hall KC saved many from the hangman’s noose in an age of inadequate defence funding, minimal forensic evidence, and an unsympathetic judiciary.

Catharine MacMillan is Professor of Private Law at KCL. Her interests include modern legal history. Before academia she was a litigation lawyer in Canada.

Judah Benjamin was a member of the US Senate, a Secretary of State in the Confederate States and after escaping to London at the end of the Civil War a leading barrister and KC.

Tom Grant KC is visiting professor at the Law School. He practises in heavy multi-party disputes in Chancery/Commercial matters. He is a noted author.

Sydney Kentridge KC was one of South Africa’s most prominent anti-apartheid advocates, acting for Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He then became a leader of the London bar.

30 January 2023 
Legal biographers on their subjects: 1. Judges

Hilary Heilbron KC is a leader of the commercial bar who has had many appearances in the Supreme Court and former House of Lords. She now sits as an international arbitrator.

Dame Rose Heilbron became an icon as one of the two first women KCs and the second female High Court judge. She championed feminist causes when that was unfashionable.

Sir David Foxton is judge in charge of the Commercial Court. He has a PhD in legal history. He practised at Essex Court Chambers and is editor of Scrutton on Charterparties.

T. E Scrutton was for a time professor of constitutional law at UCL. His commercial judgments in the Court of Appeal were much admired, including by Karl Llewellyn, author of US Uniform Commercial Code.

Dr Victoria Barnes was visiting fellow at LSE. She is now Reader in Commercial Law at Brunel University and co-editor of Business History. She was at the Max Planck Institute, Frankfurt for six years.

Lord Lindley became Master of the Rolls in 1897 and a law lord three years later. His father was a professor of botany. His name lives on with Lindley and Banks on Partnership, 20th ed, 2017.

17 January 2023 
Interview with Lady Rose, a Justice of the Supreme Court (youtube recording available)



Events in Lent term 2022

nb. these events will be held in the Moot Court Rom in the New Academic Building (for those invited to attend in person)  but also on Zoom.

Thursday 24 February 2022   |   5.30 pm

Dr David Foster (University College London)
‘Lord Wilberforce’s use of legal history’

David Foster is a specialist of the history of trusts in seventeenth and eighteenth century England. He is the author of ‘Construction and Execution of Trusts in Chancery, c. 1660–1750' (Journal of Legal History 2019) and co-author of ‘Shakespeare’s original will: a re-reading, and a reflection on interdisciplinary research within archives’ (Archives, 2016).

Further details:

Richard Wilberforce (b. 1907, d. 2003) was one of the most cerebral judges of the twentieth century. As a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (1964-1982), Lord Wilberforce delivered speeches on an impressive range of areas in the common law. A number of these decisions display a common theme in their reliance on legal history to reform the law. This paper considers discrete areas where Lord Wilberforce’s historical leanings have borne fruit – with particular emphasis on his decisions in property law and the law of trusts.

Thursday 10 March 2022    |   5.30 pm

Professor Raymond Cocks (Keele University)
‘A Problem in Legal Biography: a civil servant with radical ideas takes on major judicial and legislative roles. George Campbell (1824-1892) in British India.’ 

Raymond Cocks is the author of a number of books on the history of English law and legal thought, including Foundations of the Modern Bar (1983), Sir Henry Maine: A Study in Victorian Jurisprudence (1988) and (with Fiona Cownie) “A Great and Noble Occupation!” The History of the Society of Legal Scholars (2009). He is also one of the authors of The Oxford History of the Laws of England (2010) and is currently completing a book on law in India between 1770 and 1870.

Further details:

Brought up in Scotland to the age of 16, Campbell went on to attend the College of the East India Company at Haileybury and subsequently arrived in India aged 18. He rapidly began to hear cases both as a junior magistrate and as an official deciding on rights in land. He started to acquire a reputation for trying to support the interests of poor cultivators. In 1851 he took advantage of leave in Britain to attend the Inns of Court and was called to the Bar in 1854. Whilst on leave he did interlocutory work in London and on assize with the support of his uncle, John Campbell, who was then Lord Chief Justice and, in later years, Lord Chancellor. The younger Campbell then returned to India and, amongst other roles, was responsible for the legal system in a large area recently brought under British control. In 1862 he was appointed to the bench of the new Indian High Court in Calcutta. There he was involved in a struggle with Chief Justice Peacock over the nature of the rights of labourers on the land and the extent to which those rights should be decided by using English legal concepts. At the end of convulsive arguments, Campbell and those who agreed with him decided a major case in favour of those on the land: Peacock lost the argument and was in a minority of one. Later Campbell left the bench and in 1870 he was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal. In this role he was involved in numerous legal debates, including those relating to the passing of the Indian Contract Act where, again, he attempted to advance what he saw as the interests of the poor.

In exploring his legal thought, I will ask questions such as: how influential was his childhood in Scotland? Was he influenced by a well-known teacher of law at Haileybury? What did he think about the role of law during his first eight years in India when he encountered rural poverty? How influential were his uncle and other senior lawyers when he was in London: in particular, what did he think about the common law? Back in India what did he do in respect of the legal systems for which he was responsible? Later, how did he achieve such an influential position in the early development of Indian case law? How was it that he wrote a book on Irish (sic) land law which won praise from J.S. Mill and which is alleged to have influenced Gladstone? Ultimately, as a very senior administrator in Bengal, why was he so repelled by the terms of the Indian Contract Act – an Act which in future decades went on to have an influential role in imperial legal thought?

Campbell died in Egypt: was there something appropriate in him then being, as it were, geographically mid-way between the legal thought of Britain and that of British India? How should we bring together the threads of his legal thought?

Wednesday 23 March 2022    |    Book Launch  |   4.30pm

Book Launch of Michael Lobban, Imperial Incarceration: Detention without Trial in the Making of British Colonial Africa

Roundtable discussion in the Moot Court Room: 4.30-6.00

Speakers: Prof. Catharine MacMillan (King’s College London); Dr. Jens Meierhenrich (LSE);   Prof. Thomas Poole (LSE)

This will be followed by a drink reception at 6 pm on the 8th Floor. 

Further details:

For nineteenth-century Britons, the rule of law stood at the heart of their constitutional culture, and guaranteed the right not to be imprisoned without trial. At the same time, in an expanding empire, the authorities made frequent resort to detention without trial to remove political leaders who stood in the way of imperial expansion. Such conduct raised difficult questions about Britain’s commitment to the rule of law. Was it satisfied if the sovereign validated acts of naked power by legislative forms, or could imperial subjects claim the protection of Magna Carta and the common law tradition? In this pathbreaking book, Michael Lobban explores how these matters were debated from the liberal Cape, to the jurisdictional borderlands of West Africa, to the occupied territory of Egypt, and shows how and when the demands of power undermined the rule of law.

The book is available online and can be accessed via this link: Imperial Incarceration: Detention without Trial in the Making of British Colonial Africa


Events in Michaelmas Term 2021

Legal Biography Workshops, 9-10 September 2021

This virtual workshop is organised by the Society of Legal Scholars' Legal History Section and the LSE's Legal Biography Project.

Lives in Context 

9 September 2021   |   15.00-18.00 BST


Welcome by Victoria Barnes, Michael Lobban and Sarah Wilson

Morad El Kadmiri (UCL Faculty of Laws)
Wigmore and the Land of the Rising Sun: Revisiting Orientalism Through the Experience of a Late 19th Century Legal Westerniser

Neil Harrison (Northumbria University)
Sir Joseph Cowen as Commissioner and Chairman of the Tyne Improvement Commission from 1850 to 1873: the Influence of his Networks on his Interpretation of the Law and his Actions

Helen Rutherford (Northumbria University)
The People’s Judge: Examining the Life and Work of the Coroner for Newcastle upon Tyne 1857-1885

Uses, Abuses and Methods in Legal Biographical Writing   

10 September 2021   |   15.00-18.00 BST


Welcome by Victoria Barnes, Michael Lobban and Sarah Wilson

Sean Morris (University of Helsinki)
Walter George Frank Phillimore (1845 – 1929): The Early Years and Devotion to Church-Law Relations

Charlotte Smith (University of Reading)
Legal Biography and Religion: Some Reflections

John Tribe (University of Liverpool)
Pride & Posterity: A Reappraisal of the Earl of Birkenhead’s role in the passage of the Law of Property Act 1925

For more details contact: Victoria Barnes (barnes@lhlt.mpg.de). Click here to register on Eventbrite.





Tuesday 19 November 2019    |    5.30pm    |     Moot Court Room, 7th floor, New Academic Building, LSE

Sifting the Evidence: a lawyer's perspective on the challenges and joys of writing historical biographies

Speaker: Dame Sara Cockerill

Dame Sara Cockerill practised at the Commercial Bar from 1991 to 2017, before being appointed as a judge of the Queen’s Bench Division, where she now sits in the Commercial Court. Alongside her eminent legal career, she has also written widely on medieval history, and is the author of two biographies, Eleanor of Castile - the Shadow Queen and Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of France and England, Mother of Empires.



Friday 6 March 2020    |   5.30 pm    |    Moot Court Room, New Academic Building London, School of Economics

Sir Edward Fry: law, science and religion

Speaker: Professor Catharine MacMillan, King’s College, London

Catharine MacMillan has written widely on the history of nineteenth and early twentieth century English private law, including the book Mistakes in English Law. She is also researching the adjudication of mercantile disputes by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council within the nineteenth century British Empire. In connection with this research she is currently engaged in writing a legal biography of Judah Benjamin, which explores the importance of the individual in the development of English common law and the transfer of law and juristic concepts between different legal jurisdictions.



Monday 16 March 2020   |   5.30 pm    |    Moot Court Room, New Academic Building London, School of Economics

Lord Walter Phillimore: Churchman and Lawyer

Speaker: Dr Charlotte Smith, University of Reading

Charlotte Smith is a legal historian whose work focuses on the history of the legal relationship between the church and the state and their courts, particularly in the nineteenth century. She has published widely in this field and is currently preparing a monograph on this subject to be published by Cambridge University Press. She has also been working on church-state relations in an imperial context, exploring the transmission of English ecclesiastical law to settler colonies in the nineteenth century.



Wednesday 1 May 2019
Oral History Research: illuminating the past
Speakers: Lesley Dingle (University of Cambridge), Dr Dvora Liberman (LSE Department of Law), Mary Stewart (British Library)
Chair: Professor Michael Lobban (LSE Department of Law)

Oral History Research: illuminating the past at LSE

A warm thank you to everyone who joined the Oral History Research: illuminating the past lecture held at the Shaw Library on Wednesday 1 May. During the lecture, Ms Mary Stewart, Curator of Oral History at the British Library, provided an overview of what oral history is, its development and current use along with its distinct advantages. She also introduced the audience to the British Library oral history collection and the National Life Stories project. The next speaker, Dr Dvora Liberman, Fellow in the LSE Department of Law, presented her PhD project on the everyday lives of Crown Court clerks, explaining her research process and findings. Last but not least, Ms Lesley Dingle, Foreign and International Law Librarian at the University of Cambridge, presented the Eminent Scholars Archive and outlined its role as a research resource to the Cambridge faculty but also to the society in general.

Guided by Professor Michael Lobban, Professor of Legal History at the LSE Department of Law and Chair of the lecture, attendees had the opportunity to pose questions of both theoretical and practical nature to the panel of speakers. From clarifications regarding the actual process of conducting oral history questions to more abstract questions of subjectivity in historical research, the speakers offered valuable insights and, most importantly, the chance to listen to original extracts from oral history interviews. Overall, it was a very engaging event and we would like to wish the best of success to our speakers’ current and future projects. 





Friday 16 February 2018  |  6.30pm  |  Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building

Christabel Pankhurst: a Biography by Professor June Purvis

Speaker: Professor June Purvis

This event is co-hosted by the Women’s Library and the Legal Biography Project

Together with her mother, Emmeline, Christabel Pankhurst co-led the single-sex Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), founded in 1903 and soon regarded as the most notorious of the groupings campaigning for the parliamen­tary vote for women. A First Class Honours Graduate in Law, the determined and charismatic Christabel, a captivating orator and a supreme tactician, revitalised the women’s suffrage campaign by rousing thousands of women to become ‘militant’ suffragettes and to demand rather than ask politely for their democratic citizenship rights.

When an end to militancy was called on the outbreak of war in 1914, she encouraged women to engage in war work as a way to win their enfranchise­ment. Four years later, when enfranchisement was granted to certain categories of women aged thirty and over, she stood unsuccessfully for election to parliament, as a member of the Women’s Party.

In 1940 she moved to the USA where she had a suc­cessful career as a Second Adventist preacher and writer. This full-length biography, the first for forty years, draws upon feminist approaches to biography writing to place her within a network of supportive female friendships.

June Purvis, Emeritus Professor of Women’s & Gender History, University of Portsmouth, is the Editor of Women’s History Review and Editor for a Book Series with Routledge.  She has published extensively on women’s education in 19th century Britain and on the suffragette movement, including Emmeline Pankhurst: a biography (2002). 




Tuesday 7 March 2017

'The First Female Lawyer in Scotland'

Speaker: Alison Lindsay

Madge Easton Anderson was the first woman in Scotland and the UK to qualify as a lawyer. Later, she became the first woman to qualify in both Scottish and English jurisdictions. Yet very little is known about her, unlike her English contemporaries. The search for evidence about her life and career is a work in progress, and Alison will sharing her researches to date in piecing together the story of a pioneering Scottish lawyer.

Alison Lindsay has worked as an archivist in the National Records of Scotland for 25 years, most recently as Head of the Legal and Historical Search Rooms where every day she helps people seeking access to the 80km of records held there. She is currently researching early Scottish women in the law as part of the 2019 Women’s Legal Landmarks project.

click here for a recent radio interview with Alison Lindsay (at 1h.10m.50s.)


Tuesday 20 October 2015

Legal Life Writing: Marginalised subjects and sources

‘Life writing’ is an increasingly popular field of scholarship but much work to date has focused on charting the lives of the elite; most often white male judges and lawyers. Scholarship in this field has also been limited in its inter-disciplinary scope. This workshop will discuss a new book, Legal Life Writing: Marginalised Subjects and Sources, edited by Linda Mulcahy (LSE) and David Sugarman (Lancaster) that explores the gaps in existing literature by focussing on the lives of those usually marginalised or treated as outsiders. It also endeavours to expand the range of sources it is considered legitimate to use when researching legal lives. The collection aims to ignite debate about the nature of the relationship between socio-legal studies and legal history; explore how gaps in the existing literature can be filled when sources about the marginalised are often scant; and challenge the methodologies employed in conventional accounts of legal lives.

Monday 8 February 2016 

Lord Selborne: Churchman and Lawyer

Roundell Palmer, the first Earl of Selborne, was Lord Chancellor in Gladstone’s governments in the 1870s and 1880s, and it was he who piloted the Judicature Bill of 1873 through parliament. He was also a zealous churchman, whose defence of the Anglican establishment contributed to his estrangement from the Prime Minister. In this paper, Dr Charlotte Smith (University of Reading) will explore the importance of Selborne’s religious principles for his wider views.

Tuesday 22 March 2016  

Sir Jeffrey Gilbert and the Common Law

Sir Jeffrey Gilbert (1674-1726) was a judge of the Court of Exchequer, first in Ireland and then in England. As  judge, he is best known for his role in Annesley v Sherlock in which the British House of Lords asserted its jurisdiction as final court of appeal over Irish cases. However, he is best known to posterity for the large number of legal treaties he composed. This talk by Professor Michael Lobban will explore how Gilbert came to write these works, and what vision of the common law they contain.

Monday 9 May 2016  

On Transnational Lives Lived with Law: Institutions, Sources and Conduct

Speakers: Associate Professor Ann Genovese and Associate Professor Shaun McVeigh (Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne)

Since the nineteen eighties, law and humanities scholarship has developed a number of distinct modes of investigating forms of law and the ways in which we might conduct lawful relations or belonging to law. The question of how a life might be lived, and lived well, sits at the centre of the traditions of philosophy, history, and jurisprudence within both Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholarship in Australia. Today, while concerns with living and living well flourish in some disciplines, they do not rest easily within legal thought. Legal biography and autobiography have both been important genres of writing about law and the life of the law. Within the common law tradition judicial biography is often closely linked to the calling and practice of office and judicial and scholarly writing. However legal biography can also be thought of in a broad sense as being concerned with the writing of the lives of law, and of living with law. In this paper we report on a number projects that address relations between the living and writing of transnational lives and the living and writing of law from within the tradition of conduct of life. Under the heading of jurisography we will consider a range of sources and genres and styles of writing that might be necessary to make conducts of scholarly lives visible, across and between jurisdictions and institutions. We will give two examples of how we have been considering the conducts of legal lives from our own work, that use materials based at the LSE Library (the papers of British sociologist Norman MacKenzie), and at the British Museum (The 2015 BP Encounters exhibition).

Wednesday 11 May 2016

In conversation with Susanne Baer

Speakers: Professor Susanne Baer, in conversation with Professor Nicola Lacey

Professor Susanne Baer was elected a justice of Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court in 2011. She is also a Professor of Public Law and Gender Studies at the Humboldt University in Berlin and William W. Cook Global Law Professor at the University of Michigan Law School. An audio recording of this event is available - please click on the title above.


Tuesday 28 October 2014   

Slavery and Biographies at Jefferson's Monticello

Professor Annette Gordon-Reed (Harvard) will speak as part of Black History Month.

Annette Gordon-Reed is Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School and Harmsworth Visiting Professor of American History in the University of Oxford. She is the author of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (1997) and The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (2008), which won the Pulitzer Prize in history and the National Book Award for Non Fiction. She is also the author of Race on Trial: Law and Justice in American History (2002).

Tuesday 25 November 2014   

In conversation with the Lord Chief Justice

On 25 November, as part of the Legal Biography project, Sir Ross Cranston will interview the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, about his career in the law. Called to the bar in 1969, Lord Thomas practised as a commercial barrister, becoming a QC in 1984, before his appointment as a judge in the Queen’s Bench Division in 1996. After being appointed to the Court of Appeal in 2008, he became President of the Queen’s Bench Division in 2011, In 2013, he succeeded Lord Judge as Lord Chief Justice, Head of Criminal Justice and President of the Courts of England and Wales.

click here for audio recording of this event

Monday 9 March 2015 

The Last Outlaw: Doing Duty over Jimmy Governor

Katherine Biber is a legal scholar, historian and criminologist at the University of Technology Sydney. She is author of Captive Images: Race, Crime, Photography (Routledge, 2007), and co-editor of The Lindy Chamberlain Case: Nation, Law, Memory (ASP, 2009, with M. Arrow and D. Staines). She currently holds an Australian Research Council Discovery grant for the project “Open Justice and Open Secrets: The Cultural Afterlife of Criminal Evidence”, which will be published as a book in 2016 under the title In Crime’s Archive (Routledge). She is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and Birkbeck School of Law.

This paper examines some of the archival records created and preserved in relation to the Australian Aboriginal outlaw, Jimmy Governor. Convicted of multiple murders on the eve of Australian Federation, Jimmy Governor, the Aboriginal serial killer and Australia’s last outlaw, was nevertheless given every protection under the law. Whilst most historical accounts of Governor focus upon his dreadful crimes, his ability to elude capture, and his eventual execution, this paper seeks to examine him through the law. The presentation will focus upon a special diary kept by the officers guarding him at Darlinghurst Gaol in 1900-1901 during his time in the condemned cell. It reflects upon the materiality of these records, and in so doing, it advances an argument about archival records as evidence of law, of duty, and of public administration. Whereas in the past Jimmy Governor’s story has primarily been told in the genre of law-breaking, this article proposes using archival records about Governor to reveal him as an agent of law-making. On the brink of Australian Federation, the Jimmy Governor case provides evidence of a commitment to the rule of law.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

In Conversation with Sir Stephen Sedley

Sir Stephen Sedley, in conversation with Sir Ross Cranston

As part of LSE's Legal Biography Project, Sir Ross Cranston will interview Sir Stephen Sedley on his life and career in the law. After a distinguished career as one of Britain’s leading barristers, Sir Stephen was appointed a high court judge in 1992, and a Lord Justice of Appeal in 1999. During his twelve years on the Court of Appeal, he made a significant contribution to the development of many areas of modern English law, particularly in public law. He has also written widely on English law and the constitution, and is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books.

Sir Stephen Sedley was appointed a high court judge in 1992, and a Lord Justice of Appeal in 1999.

Thursday 4 June 2015

The U.K.’s First Woman Law Professor: an Archerian analysis

Professor Fiona Cownie  is Pro-Vice Chancellor (Education and Student Experience) at Keele University. Her research focuses on legal education. She has published widely in the area, including work on women in the law school and values in law teaching, as well as on the everyday dress of law teachers. Recently, she has become interested in the history of law schools, and in particular of legal academics. She is the author ofLegal Academics: culture and identities (Hart, 2004) and co-author of A Great and Noble Occupation: the history of the Society of Legal Scholars (Hart, 2009). Her latest research project is an extended study of the biographies of early women law professors in the U.K.

In 1970, at Queen's University Belfast, Claire Palley became the first woman to hold a Chair in Law at a United Kingdom university. However, little is known about the circumstances surrounding this event, or Claire Palley herself. This article (part of an extended project exploring her life history) seeks to address the question ‘Was there something about Claire Palley herself that made it more likely she would become the United Kingdom's first female law professor?’ Initially focusing on method, it seeks to answer that question by utilizing, for the first time in the context of legal education, the theoretical perspective provided by the work of the sociologist Margaret Archer. Reflecting upon Claire Palley's subjectivity, it focuses on those aspects of her personality which enabled her to pursue a successful career and become a pioneer in her chosen profession


Tuesday 18 February 2014 

Late Medieval and Early Modern Legal Prosopography

Sir John Baker (University of Cambridge) 


Thursday 6 March 2014   

In Conversation with the First Women Law Professors

In celebration of International Women’s Day the Legal Biography Project is hosting a public lecture in which Professors Linda Mulcahy and Fiona Cownie will interview Professors Brenda Barrett, Carol Harlow and Dawn Oliver.

These three women were amongst the first women law professors ever to be appointed in the UK. An audio recording of this event is available - please click on the title above.


11 March 2014

The Policing and Prosecution of Rape
Speaker: Professor Betsy Stanko

An audio recording of this event is available - please click on the title above.


Tuesday 18 March 2014  

Neil MacCormick and Scotland

Dr. Maksymillian Del Mar (Queen Mary, University of London)



Wednesday 1 May 2013

Pitfalls of Judicial Biography

Professor Ted White (David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Virginia)

There has recently been a growing interest, in both the US and UK, in biographies of judges. One unusual feature of that development is that some American judges (primarily members of the Supreme Court of the United States) have elicited biographies largely designed for popular audiences. The development seems curious in one respect: with the exception of a handful of figures, most visible judges in the US and the UK have not had careers in other fields which might have wider appeal to lay audiences than those of law and judging. There was a time when American Supreme Court justices included persons with previous political experience (William Howard Taft, Charles Evans Hughes, Hugo Black, and Earl Warren come to mind), but that has not been the case since the 1970s. Justices now tend to be drawn almost exclusively from the ranks of lower court judges. The result is that the pre-Court careers of most current justices have been firmly within the legal and judicial sectors, and their involvement with visible public issues has been minimal.

It would seem to follow that a prospective judicial biographer should expect to be confronted with a subject whose life has been spent primarily as a legal professional and that the chief value of undertaking a judicial biography is to describe and analyse the subject's contributions to law. If one grants that proposition, some attendant difficulties for judicial biographers would seem to emerge.

First, the process by which high court opinions are rendered can be said to downplay rather than emphasize the individual contributions of judges. Second, many of the other tasks associated with being a high court judge - hearing cases, participating in judicial conferences, drafting and circulating opinions, working with law clerks - are regarded as confidential. It is thus difficult to extract what might be called the "human" features in judicial careers: too often the biographer is simply confronted with a judge's public record, which largely consists of high court opinions. Moreover, the working lives of judges does not typically include material of great human interest. This talk will explore ways in which some of these challenges might be surmounted by prospective judicial biographers.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Legal Biographies Workship

This workshop was jointly organised by the British Library, the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies and the Socio-Legal Studies Association. Drawing on the expertise of archivists and academics working in the field the day focussed on the methodological considerations and problems involved in doing archival research for legal biographies. The aim was to draw attention to archives that newcomers to the field may not have been aware of and to consider the practical problems involved in analysing sources. Speakers included:

Lesley Dingle, Squire Law Library, Cambridge
Guy Holborn, Lincolns Inn Library
Les Moran, Birkbeck
John Simms, British Library
Mara Malagodi, LSE
Susannah Raynor, SOAS 
Antonia Moon, British Library
Rosemary Auchmuty, Reading University
    • Elizabeth Dawson, Archivist, IALS Library
Linda Mulcahy, LSE
Kristen Rundle, LSE

Tuesday 21 May 2013

In Conversation with Dame Heather Hallett

The Rt. Hon Lady Justice Hallett has been a Court of Appeal Judge since 2005, was the first woman to chair the Bar Council and was formerly a member of the Judicial Appointments Commission. We are delighted to welcome Dame Heather to the LSE to be interviewed about her life and career. The interview will be conducted by Professor Linda Mulcahy and is open to staff, students and the public.

An audio recording of this event is available - please click on the title above.


Tuesday 18 October 2011

The Art of Justice: The Judge’s Perspective

Dr Ruth Hertz (Former Judge and Associate at the Centre for Criminology, Oxford University)

Throughout his career in northern France, from 1930 to 1969, Judge Pierre Cavellat produced hundreds of drawings and paintings of courtroom scenes. The uncensored images give an unprecedented insight into how a judge perceives his profession and the institution of justice as a whole. Given the scarcity of autobiographies by judges as well as their reticence to expose their inner feelings and thinking, the images reveal in a candid and immediate fashion the deeply hidden emotions, ambiguities if not fantasies of a judge while going about his profession. By using the judicial way of thinking which judges learn during their education and training as a foil, Dr Hertz hopes to expose how personal background, history and experience play an additional, sometimes conflicting, role in ‘judgecraft’.

Tuesday 14 February 2012 

Justice Marcia Neave: Case Study of a Feminist Judge

Professor Rosemary Hunter (Kent Law School)

Tuesday 28 February 2012 

Lady Justice Arden in conversation with Mr. Justice Cranston.

An audio recording of this event is available - please click on the title above.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

A.W.B. Simpson in Context: The Life of Brian

Professor David Sugarman (University of Lancaster)

Tuesday 26 June 2012  

Justice Edwin Cameron (Judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa) in conversation with Professor Linda Mulcahy

An intimate interview with prominent South African Constitutional Court judge Justice Edwin Cameron as part of LSE's ongoing Legal Biography Project.

Described by Nelson Mandela as "One of South Africa's new heroes" Edwin was a leading human rights lawyer during the apartheid era and has received many honours for his legal work, including a special award by the Bar of England and Wales in 2002 for his ‘contribution to international jurisprudence and the protection of human rights’. He was a powerful critic of President Mbeki’s AIDS-denialist policies and has written a prize-winning memoir, “Witness to AIDS”, which is now in its fourth edition. Edwin is the only person in public office in South Africa to acknowledge having HIV/Aids.

An audio recording of this event is available - please click on title above.


3 July 2012

Memorial for Lord Wedderburn


10 September 2010

Memorial for John Griffith


Tuesday 19 October 2010

Whatever happened to Miss Bebb?

Professor Rosemary Auchmuty (School of Law, Reading University)

Gwyneth Bebb gave her name to a landmark case in the campaign to open the legal profession to women.  In spite of this achievement, which is often mentioned but rarely analysed, historical accounts have given little or no attention to the woman or the campaign of which she was part; and what happened to her then and later has remained shrouded in mystery.  It is clear that her disappearance was due in part to the circumstances of her life, but mainly to the tendency of institutional histories, if they acknowledge women's contribution at all, to present it as a simple (though discontinuous) tale of progress, thereby masking continuing prejudice and inequality. 

Wednesday 3 November 2010 

The Union of Law and Letters: Dicey on Legal Method and Legal Literature

Professor Mark Walters (Queen's University, Canada) 

[an event in collaboration with the Legal and Political Theory Forum]

It is common to refer to A.V. Diceys work in constitutional law as evidencing a scientific, mechanical, positivist, analytical, and formalist legal method; indeed, Dicey is often associated with the emergence of a text-book tradition in the nineteenth century within which the job of the legal writer was to organize and codify complex areas of legal doctrine as logical sets of rules. Examining Diceys lecture notes, correspondence, and essays, Mark Walters suggests that this view of Diceys approach to legal method and legal literature, and consequently his contribution to public law theory, stands in need of some revision. In fact, Dicey became personally disenchanted with the task of academic codification, and he struggled, not always successfully, to develop an approach to what he called the union of law and letters that embraced the value of rich and nuanced legal narratives informed by laws historical, social and moral contexts. 

Thursday 9 December 2010   

Ken Clarke – An interview with Mr Justice Cranston

As part of the Legal Biographies Project lecture programme Mr Justice Cranston interviewed Ken Clarke, QC, MP, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor about his legal and political career.


Tuesday 18 January 2011 

Loy et Loyauté: Lord Sumner (1859-1934) –`Hopelessly reactionary’ political Law Lord or bold knight-errant of  the Common Law and Constitution?

Professor Tony Lentin (author of The Last Political Law Lord: Lord Sumner (1859-1934), 2009)

Sumner was  a controversial Law Lord  and verdicts on him are overwhelmingly hostile. A formidable case can be made out against him on a number of grounds, especially his contentious interventions in the most sensitive political issues of his day. His biographer, Tony Lentin, asks whether Sumner’s  rehabilitation is not overdue as a sound, pragmatic judge and a staunch defender of the Constitution and the sovereignty and independence of Parliament.

8 February 2011 

A tour of judicial portraits at Lincoln’s Inn

Professor Les Moran (School of Law, Birkbeck University of London) 

Legal biography is not the sole preserve of the written word. Portraits are an important biographical form. But their study has been neglected by scholars and portraits frequently dismissed as bland, predictable and bad art.  Professor Leslie Moran’s work on judicial portraits has explored the origins of this state of affairs and its dangers. His research calls for an urgent reassessment. Together with Guy Holborn of Lincoln’s Inn and drawing upon that Inn’s rich collection of legal and judicial portraits Professor Moran will explore the nature of legal portraiture as a biographical text and examine its uses.

10 May 2011 

Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz

Professor Barbara Babcock (Judge John Crown Professor of Law and author of Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Folz, Stanford University Press.)

Clara Foltz became one of the first women lawyers in the United States when she fought her way into the California Bar in 1878 as a 29 year old single mother of five. In a career full of firsts, she was a trial lawyer before women could serve on juries and a highly paid political orator before they could vote. The introductory part of the seminar will introduce her as an extraordinary figure in American legal history.

In addition to her law practice, Foltz was what we would call a public intellectual—a “thinker” in nineteenth century parlance. This seminar will focus on that part of her career. In the 1890s Foltz participated (as commentator, counsel, and shadow juror) in a series of cases in which women were accused of murder. Perhaps most famous of the “Victorian murderesses” was Florence Maybrick, an American woman married to a British Lord. Her supporters on both sides of the Atlantic urged that male justice was inadequate for a female accused, and that women should not be subjected to the death penalty for that reason. Foltz rejected such arguments, and argued for equal treatment of women in the criminal justice system.

We will look at the other famous murderesses and discuss the use of individual criminal cases in the rhetoric of the women’s rights movement. More generally, we will deal with Foltz’s thoughts and writings about the criminal justice system, and especially her conception of a public defender to match the public prosecutor.


13 October 2009
Dr Ruth Dukes
 (University of Glasgow) on Kahn Freund

3 November 2009
Mark Pallis (Barrister; former specialist adviser to the All Party Parliamentary Group on William Garrow) 

1 December 2009
Lord Goodhart
 on A.L. Goodhart

26 January 2010
Baroness Hale in conversation with Mr Justice Cranston 

9 February 2010
Dr Catharine MacMillan
 (Queen Mary) on Judah Benjamin  


14 October 2008
Professor Gail Pearson (University of Sydney) on Mackenzie Chalmers

4 November 2008 
Dr Richard Gwynned Parry (University of Swansea) on 'Sir David Hughes Parry' 
Chair: Mr Justice David Lloyd Jones; Commentator: Hugh Collins (LSE)

2 December 2008
Lord Justice Mummery on Lord Bowen

3 March 2009
Professor G. Edward White (School of Law, University of Virginia) 
'Biographical Dimensions of Holmes's The Common Law'

5 May 2009
Lord Hoffmann (Lord of Appeal in Ordinary)  


10 October 2007  Launch and Reception
Rt. Hon. Lord Bingham KG (Patron of the Project), in conversation with Ross Cranston: 
'A Life in the Law'  [sponsored by Clifford Chance]

17 October 2007 
Panel Discussion on Judicial Biography
Lord Rodger will chair a discussion among Professors Lisa Jardine, Nicola Lacey, Neil Duxbury, and Mr Geoffrey Lewis

24 October 2007
Dr Stephen Cretney 
'Are Solicitors' Lives Necessarily Boring?'