Accessibility statement

Private International Law - LAW00064M

« Back to module search

  • Department: The York Law School
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Nicolas Rennuy
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

Can a company deny its customers living in England the protection of English laws and courts, by specifying in its terms and conditions that they can only sue it in a foreign court on the basis of foreign law? More broadly, to what extent is it possible to escape the reach of English law, whether through mobility (e.g. moving some activities abroad) or contractual arrangements? How far does English law extend to people, companies and transactions located abroad?

Such questions gain in importance as globalisation marches on. Private international law provides answers. It determines (i) when English courts can hear a case; (ii) whether they should apply English law or foreign law; and (iii) whether foreign judgments can be recognised and enforced in England.

This module may appeal to students interested in international transactions/mobility or in comparative law (for instance, we'll look at US law). It would suit students interested in the way the law manages globalisation, one of the major challenges of the 21st century. Private international law has been described as 'the regulation of regulation': it determines whether the laws of a country apply to mobile actors. Put differently, it shapes the extent to which those actors can shop for the law that best suits them - but possibly not others. While 'private' features in its name, this module is interested in how to protect public interests in cross-border cases.

Professional requirements


Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

Module aims

This module provides a grounding in private international law. It looks at the main instruments and techniques of private international law, which it illustrates through case studies relating mostly to contracts and torts. Throughout the module, there is a focus on vulnerable parties (e.g. employees) and public interests (e.g. environmental protection).

Cases with a foreign element raise interesting normative questions, which we will explore. For instance, should an English judge apply foreign law, even though it leads to an outcome that is contrary to the result that would have obtained under English law? Can a claimant sue in faraway courts, thereby putting the defendant at a significant disadvantage? Can a party enforce a judgment in England, even if it was obtained in a country with dubious procedural standards?

Students will be encouraged to think 'beyond the State' and to reflect on how a country's legal and policy choices can be realised in cases with a foreign element. Our discussions will be enriched by insights from other jurisdictions: for instance, how do the EU, the US and others regulate such issues? We will also occasionally draw upon law and economics.

The module will be taught through lectures, seminars and self-directed study. The seminars will consist of case studies, normative discussions and non-assessed student presentations.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  1. demonstrate an in-depth knowledge and understanding of selected aspects of private international law, including a critical awareness of current issues and developments in the subject
  2. apply rules to actual and fictitious scenarios
  3. identify and critically evaluate competing interests and values, drawing upon doctrinal, comparative and (if relevant) economic insights
  4. reflect upon the roles and strategies of private and public actors
  5. develop coherent written arguments on selected contemporary topics within private international law

Module content

Topics will include:

  • the choice of law: general issues; types of conflict rules; conflict rules in contracts and torts; the protection of vulnerable parties and public interests
  • the jurisdiction of courts
  • the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Essay topics will be provided. Students will also be able to write an essay on another topic of their choice, provided it is approved by the module leader.

Students will have the opportunity of submitting an essay plan (formative), on which they will receive written feedback.



Module feedback

Written feedback is provided on the Essay Plan (if submitted) and the Essay.

Feedback will be provided within the Policy Turnaround Time.

Indicative reading

Symeonides, Symeon C, Codifying Choice of Law Around the World: An International Comparative Analysis (OUP 2014)

Ribstein, Larry E and O’Hara, Erin A, The Law Market (OUP 2009)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.