Insolvency law

Timothy Cleary is a great example of how our people are furthering the understanding of law. Alongside his fee-earning work, he undertook extensive research into the principles of English insolvency law as part of a master's degree at Oxford University.

Timothy's research focused on the so-called 'anti-deprivation principle', which prevents a debtor transferring their assets to a third party to put them out of reach of creditors. Where once cases involving this principle were exceedingly rare, the insolvency of Lehman Brothers in the recent financial crisis saw it invoked repeatedly, with the bank arguing that asset vehicles it had sold should be reverted to it. The British and US courts ruled differently on these cases, and Timothy hoped to bring some clarity to a much-misunderstood issue.

His research took him back through hundreds of years of English law and literature, analysing insolvency and marriage settlements in theory and in practice. It was this relationship – often strained – between the effect a law is intended to have and the way in which it is interpreted and employed that Timothy found of particular interest and relevance.

As well as receiving a distinction for his thesis, the research he carried out was of direct relevance to his practice area and continues to inform the advice he gives clients. Furthermore, he has been invited by the Financial Markets Law Committee to participate in the drafting of a proposal for reform in this area.