Law is one of three main units within the Dundee Business School (DBS), the others being Accounting, Finance and Economics (AFE), and Business and Management (B&M).
Law has a research profile that looks both at law as an academic discipline, searching for justice, fairness, clarity and consistency across most areas of human activity, and as a means of interacting with the wider economic, political and social world. In particular, it reconciles technological developments with societal norms. In this respect, Law contributes to two of Abertay University’s research priorities, namely society and the environment. There are currently several different themes in Law which link with these topics.
The first theme is developments in technology and the law, as evidenced in two different but connected areas. Technological developments normally require to be patented. The law relating to patents is driven by the state-of-the-art of technology and the willingness or ability of patent registers, not all of which operate to the same standards or legal precepts, to grant patents. In some countries, patents are granted which would not be permitted or accepted in others. Some countries are reluctant to accept patents connected with developments in human reproduction. The law in many countries is lagging behind advances of assisted reproduction, with advances throwing up difficulties in terms of inheritance law, incest and parental rights and responsibilities. Research in these two areas is being conducted by Jade Kouletakis and Dr Alan Brown.
The second theme is labour law. The law relating to employment depends on the tension between employers’ needs and employees’ rights, and is influenced by Human Rights Law and, at least for the time being, by European Law. Much is to be learned from the jurisprudence of other countries, and research is being carried out in this area by Dr Michelle Weldon-Johns and James Murphie. European law is also significant in the research carried out by Dr Maria O’Neill on human trafficking, examining the capacity of the European Union realistically to deter and criminalise this practice.
The final theme is directors’ duties within corporate law. Recent financial scandals have been nearly always attributable to rash or self-seeking directorial decision-making. In conjunction with researchers in AFE, who are investigating poor corporate governance and its economic consequences, Professor Nicholas Grier is examining means of encouraging responsible directorial decision-making.
Many of the recent graduates from the Division of Law have chosen to enter the legal profession. However, those who have chosen to stay or others who have come to carry out postgraduate research have done so in European Union law and oil and gas law.
The research atmosphere within Law is designed to encourage intellectual enquiry and to extend the boundaries of knowledge. We recognise that Law is based on practicalities, but that it also embraces philosophy, politics and economics. As an example of all four of these attributes, at a recent seminar Professor Grier demonstrated that part of the reasons for the failure of companies such as BHS and Rangers Football Club is that the high-minded but ineffectual legal duties expected of directors were approved by politicians, unaware of the significance of their own legislation and of its ease of evasion. This political failure ultimately led to permissible corporate larceny for which society is still paying the cost.
At another seminar, Dr Brown explained the need for reform of the law relating to surrogate mothers bearing children for others on a commercial basis, and the need to establish the rights of all concerned in a manner that both recognises the reality of this practice and avoids exploitation.