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Bankside member Peter Watts KC has been awarded the degree of Doctor of Civil Law from Oxford University for his writing on the law of agency.

Peter Watts KC has been awarded (technically, "granted leave to supplicate for") the higher doctorate for his work in the law of agency. This is the first Doctor of Civil Law to have been earned by a New Zealander by examination, rather than received as honorary.

Some well known honorary DCLs awarded to New Zealanders have included General Freyberg in 1945, Sir Keith Park in 1947, Sir David Smith J in 1948 as Chancellor of the then UNZ, Robin Cooke in 1991, and Paul Reeves in 1985.

Peter has been teaching law at Oxford for several weeks a year as a Visiting Professor since 2017. He submitted 12 of his publications to be assessed for the DCL degree by internal and external examiners. The criteria for the rarely awarded degree are:

Judges will be asked to consider whether the evidence submitted demonstrates excellence in academic scholarship and is:

a)    of the absolute highest quality;

b)    substantial in scale and in the contribution it has made to knowledge;

c)     sustained over time and showing current and continued contribution to scholarship;

d)    authoritative, being able to demonstrate impact on the work of others;

e)    of global reach and international importance within the field; and

f)    of such breadth or covering such branches of knowledge appropriate to the field and in line with disciplinary norms and expectations.”

Several of the articles submitted for the degree, along with the leading text Bowstead & Reynolds on Agency of which Peter is General Editor, were recently cited with commendation by Lord Leggatt in the UK Supreme Court decision in Philipp v Barclays Bank UK Plc [2023] UKSC 25. Amongst the comments made by Lord Leggatt were:

“Authority to act as agent includes only authority to act honestly in pursuit of the interests of the principal.” The basis for this proposition is elucidated both in the comment that follows it [in Bowstead & Reynolds] and in a valuable article by the current main editor, Peter Watts, “Actual authority: the requirement for an agent honestly to believe that an exercise of power is in the principal's interests” [2017] JBL 269.
And at [92]: "Professor Watts, who has done much to illuminate this area of the law, disputes that conclusion."

As a world authority on the law of agency, Peter has been engaged to advise in a number of the leading cases in the area in the United Kingdom and other jurisdictions, and in international arbitrations.

In the media

NZ’s Oxford odyssey