Warwick Law Welcomes New Professor
Warwick Law School welcomes a new Professor to our team.
Professor Andrew Johnston joins us from the University of Sheffield where he worked as Professor of Company Law and Corporate Governance for seven and a half years. Whilst there he took on a number of management roles, including acting as Director of Internationalisation, Director of the Sheffield Institute of Corporate and Commercial Law and Director of Learning and Teaching. Outside of that busy schedule he also taught company law and corporate governance to undergraduates and postgraduates, visited China half a dozen times and developed his research agenda. He tells us that “the world gave plenty of opportunities for that, throwing up the botched response to the Global Financial Crisis, growing societal awareness of the unsustainability of business (if not the political will to do anything about it) and the ongoing problem of Brexit.” Before joining Sheffield, Andrew worked at the Universities of Queensland, Cambridge and Warsaw, and also had an earlier short spell at Sheffield.
When asked about joining Warwick he told us, “I’m looking forward to getting to know my new colleagues, both academic and professional services, and learning from them about how the school and university work, what they do at work and for fun, as well as developing links between Warwick and universities around the world and inspiring our students.”
We chatted to find out a little more…
What will you be doing at Warwick?
It is obviously a strange time to be ‘joining’ a new department, given I don’t know when I will meet my new colleagues and students face-to-face. At first, I will mainly be doing what is needed to help the School and University get through the crisis. I am going to be primarily teaching company law and corporate governance at all levels, beginning with a PGT module on Takeovers that takes a critical approach based on my research. I will also be working with the existing internationalisation team to expand and broaden recruitment onto our PGT programmes.
What are your research interests?
I began my research career by doing a PhD at the European University Institute in Florence, looking at theories of company law and corporate governance, and how takeovers are justified, despite the obvious costs that they impose on certain groups, such as employees. Since then I have spent my time asking and trying to answer difficult questions, such as: Why are companies not required to be part of the solution to the profound and complex systemic challenges facing the world? Why assume that the interests of shareholders must be paramount when companies could do so much more? Those questions have led me to look critically at numerous issues such as the history of takeovers and their regulation, the role of management and institutional investors, how companies can contribute to sustainability, whether corporate social responsibility serves any useful social purpose, regulation of the financial sector and so on.
In doing so I have had to learn about institutional and heterodox law and economics, theories of regulation, monetary and macroeconomic theory, taxation, accounting and so on. That may sound dry and technical, but as I tell my students, you have to understand the logic of what you are dealing with if you want to be able to critique it. So I do my best to present my research in an accessible way to wider audiences, whether responding to public consultations, working with public interest organisations like Frank Bold, writing briefing papers for the European Trade Union Institute on issues like Company Law after Brexit or Shareholder Rights, speaking to policymakers about progressive corporate governance and encouraging them to implement proposals for reform.
Why did you want to study law?
I actually wanted to study French and Italian! But my parents persuaded me that it would be better to study law, and that I could learn languages in my spare time. I started working in a large international law firm in London but decided fairly early on that practising corporate law was not for me. As soon as I tried teaching law, I loved it! I make it my mission to teach law in an interesting, contextual and critical way. It makes me really happy when students tell me that they were dreading studying company law but that I made it interesting or even enjoyable. I hope that whatever my students end up doing, I will have planted a critical seed in their minds that might sprout at any moment.
University can be very stressful, what do you do to unwind?
I do learn languages in my spare time (Mandarin Chinese right now), but for real unwinding I listen to all kinds of music, watch Liverpool FC (much less stressful in 2019-20 than for the last thirty years), go running and learn yoga (especially since the lockdown began).
Andrew Sanders, Head of Warwick Law School commented, “The School warmly welcomes Andrew. His PhD is from the EUI in Florence, and he has held academic posts in Australia and Poland as well as the UK. He has had Visiting Professorships in Australia and France. He has also practised as a solicitor. His teaching and research, in the broad area of company law, currently focuses on the contribution of corporate governance to sustainability and regulatory responses to the global financial crisis. He has done a lot of work in China and speaks Mandarin. He therefore continues the ‘Warwick tradition’ of internationalism, studying law in context, and using the law as a force for good.”
Good luck in your first term Andrew, we are thrilled to have you with us.
Find out more about Andrew’s research: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/people/andrew_r_johnston