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The University of Southampton

LAWS6154 Commercial Conflict of Laws and International Litigation

Module Overview

With the dramatic rise of international trade in the last two to three decades, conflict of laws, also known as private international law, has become a key mechanism for regulating transnational commercial relationships. As it provides the wider legal background against which commercial parties negotiate their contracts and settle or arbitrate their disputes, conflict of laws now belongs to the standard tool kit of any practitioner dealing with transnational commerce. Private international law is the body of law which deals with transnational private disputes (of which are there many) and lays down the ‘meta-rules’ that decide which national court should hear the dispute, which law should be applicable and in what circumstances can a foreign judgement be enforced or recognised. It also seeks to prevent or resolve parallel proceedings concerning the same dispute and provide for security for the claim. Unlike public international law, private international law is, as a starting point, domestic law but has in the European context been harmonised. This module explores the European Regulations on jurisdiction and applicable law and attendant case law of Court of Justice of the EU and English courts, and compares the European rules on jurisdiction with traditional English law on jurisdiction as well as US law.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • A1. The national and regional framework of private international law and its relevance to international commercial and maritime relationships and disputes
  • A2. The main legal rules and principles governing where a transnational commercial dispute can be heard, which law should be applied and whether a foreign judgement will or will not be enforced or recognised
  • A3 Public policy and other values that underlie conflict of laws in general and in relation to specific rules
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • B1. Source, interpret and analyse relevant legal materials, including, where appropriate, international conventions, statutes, case law and standard form contracts.
  • B2. Identify, evaluate and apply key legal principles in solving transnational commercial disputes.
  • B3. Identify and critically evaluate key legal and policy issues in their social and economic contexts arising out of transnational law.
  • B4. Communicate Legal Arguments Effectively.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • C1. Analyse complex written texts and evaluate different types of arguments.
  • C2. Construct arguments and solve problems based on premises drawn from various sources.


Conflict of laws, or private international law, deals with the law governing transnational private disputes, i.e. disputes with significant foreign elements. There are three main branches of the subject, which will be covered in the course: (1) Jurisdiction: which court has the jurisdiction to hear the dispute, and what happens if the parties to the dispute each start proceedings in different state? (2) Choice of law or applicable law: what substantive law governs the issues arising in the case, English law or French or Chinese law? (3) Recognition and enforcement of foreign judgements: in what circumstances will judgements of foreign courts be recognised and enforced in England and vice versa? The rules on these issues vary depending on whether EU law, English national law or any other national law is applicable. This course focuses on EU, English and US law by way of comparison. The rules also vary depending on the substantive nature of the transnational commercial dispute: does the dispute concern a contract, a tort, a property or cross-border insolvency, and how does conflict of law interact with dispute settlement through arbitration?

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods One 2-hour seminar per week Learning methods - Essential and additional directed reading, as per distributed reading lists reproduced on Blackboard; - Engagement with current legal or commercial developments to ensure that you can relate the material being discussed in class to contemporary controversies

Independent Study256
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

T. Hartley (2015). International Commercial Litigation 2nd ed.. 

P. Rogerson (2013). Collier's Conflict of Laws 4th ed.. 



Mock Examination


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (3.5 hours) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Closed book Examination  (3.5 hours) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Closed book Examination  (3.5 hours) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

P. Rogerson, Collier’s Conflict of Laws, 4th ed,, 2013, Cambridge University Press.

T. Hartley, International Commercial Litigation, 2nd ed., 2015, Cambridge University Press £49.99

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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