Funded PhD research into (European) rules on ‘responsible’ litigation funding

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
January 06, 2023
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Funded PhD research into (European) rules on ‘responsible' litigation


(ref. BAP-2022-825)

Last modification : Monday, December 5, 2022

The supervisor of the project is Prof Dr Geert van Calster, director of the Institute for Private International Law and former head of the Department of International and EU law. It is within the latter department that the research will take place. The department is a vibrant research community of PhD researchers, Postdocs, part-time teaching assistants with teaching and research responsibilities in the broad areas of international and EU law. This particular research project will be part of Prof van Calster's work as both an academic and practitioner in the area of international litigation and civil procedure.

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Fiat Justitia, ruat caelum. Let justice be done though the heavens fall is a well-known legal maxim suggesting justice must be done at all cost. Courts and tribunals are an essential tool in enabling the pursuit of justice, yet access to them is frequently an obstacle to their effective use. In recent years the litigation landscape across the globe has seen the development of financial instruments to facilitate access to courts – a market that is still largely unregulated in most countries Third party for profit litigation funding (‘TPPLF') in essence sees parties unrelated to the dispute, “invest” in selected lawsuits hoping to make a profit. These litigation investors are often highly specialised companies; some of them listed on a stock exchange. Proponents of TPPLF argue that it assists access to justice. TPPLF in this view funds parties that struggle with financing the ever-increasing cost of litigation. There are various examples of ground-breaking cases in environmental, health and safety, human rights etc cases against powerful corporations where claimants gained access to courts via TPPLF. However, there are also downsides to unregulated TPPLF. This was clearly on the mind of Axel Voss, lead author for a draft report for the European Parliament on the matter: “To spare European citizens from the unjust legal outcomes that thousands of Australians – and others around the world – have had to face in recent years, this legislative own-initiative report aims to regulate third party litigation funding (TPLF) before it gains traction in all of our Member States.”

TPPLF quite clearly must not only be viewed as a spectre haunting our justice systems. There is scope for it to be used to strengthen access to justice. This proposed project addresses exactly this question, with focus on the role TPPLF plays in ‘Strategic and Public Interest Litigation (‘SPIL'). SPIL may be described as a ‘public good' because it can be used to ‘trigger social or legal change where there is no political will to do so', as well as to ‘obtain redress for injustices experienced by disadvantaged groups'. SPIL's current popularity across various jurisdictions is closely linked (a) to developments in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), (b) to claimants' empowerment via ubiquitous information (fuelled by transparency requirements in both corporate and regulatory law), and (c) to the availability of funds using for instance third party financing. This research proposal looks at this latter element of SPIL. It will be the first time an in-depth investigation, across jurisdictions, will be done of the regulation of TPPLF against the background of access to justice and its use in SPIL.


The project requires a student with a degree of Master of Laws, and excellent knowledge of English. Other languages (French, German in particular, potentially Dutch) are an asset. Student must have an excellent academic CV and a proven interest in international litigation in civil and commercial law, as well as proven interest in comparative and independent research. Practice experience is a plus but not a requirement. The project includes comparative research of third party litigation funding in in Australia, Singapore, South Africa, the United Kingdom (England &Wales), the US States of California and New York, Mexico, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium: exposure to any or many of these jurisdictions is a plus.


3.5 years funded PhD research in an international research environment at Leuven Law School, ranked first in continental Europe in the Times Higher Education List and 14h worldwide, with joint first for external funding and second only beyond NYU for research. The supervisor of the research has an eclectic interest in many of the areas relevant to the research: civil procedure, litigation, human rights and environment. The supervisor has an excellent record of PhD completion, with 17 students having completed under his supervision so far. Candidates who are shortlisted will receive more details on the parameters of the research project prior to interview, and will be asked to provide two references.

Supervisor's blog which indicates his research and practice


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Geert van Calster, tel.: +32 16 32 5147, mail:

Applications must be received no later than 6 January 2023. Shortlisted candidates will be notified in the week of 9 January 2023, with online interviews scheduled to take place week of 16 January 2023.

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