Professor Bronwen Morgan
The key challenge facing environmental law in the near-to-medium term future is the degree to which its effectiveness is constrained by its structural relationship to commercial law, and the related implications for legal professional services. Responding to environmental challenges through the medium of law requires us to move away from an inherently regulatory response that effectively bolts environmental goals onto the edifice of commercial exchange as a protective afterthought. Drawing from findings from a three year research project on the legal and regulatory support structures for small-scale sustainable economy initiatives, I argue that a more productive approach is to rework the tacit legal underpinnings of commercial activities.
Creative use of commercial and transactional legal strategies has the potential to weave social and ecological values into the heart of exchange, and thus to address environmental law goals ‘from the inside out’. To fulfil this potential effectively, legal and policy debates should address questions of: 1) innovative hybrid legal entity models that transcend not-for-profit/profit dichotomies; and 2) gaps in legal professional services related to issues of culture and values, specific technical skills sets, and the cost and accessibility of commercial advice for small-scale organisations. While the paper will focus on the applied implications of the proposed strategy, it is embedded in a wider conceptual re-imagining of the relationship between place, law and economy: one which links transactional law to place (including shared infrastructure, land and the city) through conceptions of the commons.
About the speaker
Bronwen Morgan joined UNSW Law School as a Professor in Law and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in October 2012, having taught at the University of Bristol, UK for seven years as Professor of Socio-legal Studies. Prior to Bristol, she taught at the University of Oxford in association with both St Hilda’s College and Wadham College. She holds a PhD in Jurisprudence and Social Policy from the University of California at Berkeley as well as Honours degrees in Arts and Law from the University of Sydney. Her research has long focused on transformations of the regulatory state in both national-comparative and transnational contexts (see eg Dubash and Morgan (eds), Understanding the Rise of the Regulatory State of the South (OUP 2013), and also on the interaction between regulation and rights, especially in the context of social activism and claims for social and economic human rights (see, e.g. Morgan, Water on Tap (CUP 2011, on access to urban water services in comparative perspective). She currently holds a Future Fellowship from the Australian Research Council where she is researching legal support structures for social activists and social enterprises responding to climate change in Australia and the UK.