SUSAN HAS AN EXTENSIVE UNDERSTANDING OF COMMERCIAL LAW AND IS THE JOINT GENERAL EDITOR OF COMPANY AND SECURITIES LAW IN NEW ZEALAND, FARRAR AND WATSON (EDS). SHE HAS PRACTICED AS A COMMERCIAL LAWYER AT A NUMBER OF AUCKLAND LAW FIRMS AND HAS BEEN AUCKLAND UNIVERSITY’S HOD OF COMMERCIAL LAW SINCE 2008. SHE HAS TAUGHT AT THE UNIVERSITY FOR ALMOST TWENTY YEARS NOW. SUSAN IS ALSO DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE NEW ZEALAND GOVERNANCE CENTRE, UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND.
1. How do you think legal online resources and information are shaping legal study, research and practice?
Online information and resources have revolutionised legal academia. It wasn’t very long ago that the only way to view or obtain copies of a significant amount of material was to travel to places like the UK. Online resources bring the information to you. The increasing sophistication of the search functions on online databases allows legal researchers, either in academia or in practice to find answers to legal questions they have much more quickly. It also allows them to be confident that they have a complete set of material on which to base their answer.
2. You have worked as a staff solicitor and associate at two inner-city law firms, and are currently Head of the Commercial Law Department at the University of Auckland Business School.
What benefits do you think the Company and Securities Law in New Zealand, Farrar and Watson (eds) online database on Brookers Online, will have for both legal practitioners and academics?
Corporate law and securities law are important areas in practice and also important areas of study especially in a department such as mine that focuses on commercial law. Dynamic areas of law such as these change rapidly and having the Company and Securities Law in New Zealand text online will enable us to ensure its currency. In addition, as relatively challenging areas of law, subscribers can be confident that they have access to commentary by leading academics in the field.
3. One of your many interests is the liability of company directors and professionals.
What is it that particularly interests you in this area?
Open any newspaper and it is possible to see why liability of directors and professionals remains a live issue. The finance company collapses were to some extent at least a failure of governance, a failure by those charged to safeguard the interests of the companies broadly defined not just as its shareholders but also as its creditors and investors. The issue of the extent to which directors should be made liable for corporate failures is a nuanced one but it seems apparent that in New Zealand at present we do not have the balance right-directors who are dishonest and also those who are frankly incompetent should face the consequences of that dishonesty and incompetence. In my view that would not deter the honest and the competent from taking on directorships.
4. The New Zealand Governance Centre held their 2010 symposium earlier this year which discussed the ‘Public/Private’ debate in corporate governance. What were some of the major conclusions as a result of the symposium?
Increasingly the public/private divide is being seen as limiting and artificial. Companies may claim to be private sector organisations governed by private law but the reality is incorporation itself is a concession by the State that gives the company a range of well-known benefits such as separate legal entity and limited liability for its shareholders. Regulation should not therefore be assumed to be unwarranted interference in the operation of companies.
5. The Government is currently conducting a major review of New Zealand securities legislation. How do you see this reform affecting legal studies over the next few years?
Essentially students will need to learn new law. Having access to excellent materials such as the online Company and Securities law work promises to help with that study. Any new law goes through a process of interpretation by commentators and ultimately the courts. Up-to-date commentary on the application of that legislation is important.