Inspiring Women of ANU Law: Dr Philippa Ryan

Dr Philippa Ryan
Dr Philippa Ryan is director of the ANU Master of Laws (LLM) program.

To mark International Women's Day this year we are celebrating some of the women who make our College a world-leading institution for legal education and research.

Dr Philippa Ryan is a barrister and a senior lecturer at the ANU College of Law, where she is the director of the Master of Laws (LLM) program. She is an expert on commercial equity, in particular the liability of third parties to a breach of trust. Her PhD formulated a new classification for accessorial liability. Her research explores trust and distrust in digital economies and autonomous systems, including smart contracts enabled by blockchain technology.

What inspired you to get into your field of research?

Before studying law, I did a degree in English literature. Breaches of trust, meddling in wills and the vulnerability of expectant heirs are the stuff of some of my favourite novels, particularly Dickens and Austen.

Meanwhile, the records of Medieval England reveal the litigiousness of all classes. Centuries of law reports are filled with well-documented and often entertaining complaints to the courts. Some of the longest running, most complex and most expensive disputes in Australia and the United Kingdom have arisen from liability for breach of trust or breach of fiduciary duty. And now with the advent of the Internet and the platformisation of everything, fraudsters are anonymous, scams operate at scale, data is the new currency, and tax havens are built on bitcoin. What’s not to love?

What is a teaching/research project you are currently working on that motivates you?

I am currently developing an online learning module that will teach law students how to design and develop web-based apps to automate legal processes. This experience will introduce students to computational thinking, while applying the fundamental rules of client care and pleadings. Our graduates will be armed with digital literacy, including the skill to assess the practical benefits and professional risks associated with using apps in practice.

Who is a woman in your field you look up to?

Professor Pauline Ridge stands out among many brilliant women in the law and academia. Pauline’s scholarship delivers clarity, rigour and authority. Meanwhile, she is constructive and supportive with colleagues and students.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It’s a day to reflect on and celebrate the achievements of women in all walks of life and to ensure that we do all we can to provide opportunities and assistance to those in need.

What advice would you give your more junior self?

Just focus on your own direction and do not look sideways. Also, the best coffee is a double piccolo with skim milk. It took me about a decade to figure this out.

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Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team