Professor Susan Mary Watson

MJur, LLB (Hons)

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Professor Susan Watson researches and teaches corporate law and corporate governance. She has a particular interest in the corporate form and in her research seeks to understand how the form developed, why it is so successful, and the economic and societal impact of corporations. Her research has been published widely in New Zealand and internationally; she has edited and co-authored  treatises and textbooks, five edited collections and numerous articles. Her work has been cited and discussed by other scholars in the field and by courts at all levels including the UK Supreme Court. From 2007 until 2014  Susan was joint editor of the New Zealand Business Law Quarterly,  and is currently the New Zealand editor for the Journal of Business Law. In 2016 she won the 2015 Legal Research Foundation Sir Ian Barker Published Article Award for How the Company Became an Entity - A New Understanding of Corporate Law. This award was given for the best article, essay or discrete book chapter published by a New Zealand-based author in 2015. 

Professor Watson has been a visiting Professor at Vanderbilt University (2008, 2012,2018) Tilburg University and in 2018 a visiting academic in the Oxford Law Faculty. 

Before joining the University, Susan worked as a staff solicitor and associate in two city law firms, and taught part of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies law professionals course. Before joining the Law School she was Professor of Commercial Law in the Business School where she was Head of Department from 2008 to the end of 2010 and Associate Dean Academic Faculty in 2011. She was Deputy Dean of the Law School from 2014 until the end of 2017 and from the beginning of 2019 will be Acting Dean of the Law School.

Research | Current

Within her areas of specialisation, Susan is particularly interested in the corporation as an entity and legal person, and the ramifications of this conceptualisation of the corporate form. She is currently writing a series of articles about the modern company or corporation, how it evolved to their current form, how states can best regulate the world’s dominant legal structure and in a world where expectations of the role of institutions are shifting how corporations themselves can best balance the interests of shareholders, stakeholders and society. Part of that work involves a monograph for Hart Publishing The Making of the Modern Company: An Entity Primacy Model for the 21st Century.  Susan is part of a research project looking at the relationship between leadership and governance, and is also working on a project about early understandings of corproate social responsibilioty and sustainability in corporate governance in Quaker companies in the 19th century.


Within New Zealand Susan writes frequently on New Zealand corporate law and governance. She is currently jointly editing and authoring the treatise Corporate Law in New Zealand (Thomson Reuters)

Teaching | Current

  • 2015    Company Law
  • 2010    Honours course on issues in company and contract law
  • 2015    LAWCOMM 709    Corporate Governance

Postgraduate supervision

Current - Heida Donegan - Legal transplants in Chinese Corporate Governance- PhD

Past - Wei Feng - Political Deteminants of Corporate Governance- PhD

Past- Rebecca Hirsch- Governance of Family Businesses -PhD

Past -Wenge Wang- Independent Directors in China- PhD


  • 2015 Legal Research Foundation Sir Ian Barker Published Article Award for How the Company Became an Entity - A New Understanding of Corporate Law. This award is given for the best article, essay or discrete book chapter published by a New Zealand-based author in 2015. 
  • 2004    Teaching Excellence Award


Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law 2014- 2017

Associate Dean Academic Faculty, Faculty of Busienss and Economics 2013

Head of Department of Commercial Law 2008-2010

Areas of expertise

  • Company law
  • Corporate governance

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • Deputy Dean Auckland Law School
  • Legal Research Foundation Council
  • Corporate law teachers Association Council
  • Faculty of Business and Economic Equal Opportunities Officer 2002- 2010
  • Head of Department of Commercial Law - 2008- 2010
  • Member University Staffing Committee- 2010 -

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Watson, S. M. (2015). Corporate law and Governance. New Zealand Law Review, 2015 (2), 239-258.
  • Watson, S. M. (2015). How the Company Became an Entity: A New Understanding of Corporate Law. Journal of Business Law (1), 120-141. Related URL.
  • Thomas, R. S., & Watson, S. M. (2013). Should New Zealand Adopt Say on Pay?. New Zealand Business Law Quarterly, 19 (2), 111-137.
  • Farrar, J., & Watson, S. (Eds.) (2013). Company and Securities Law in New Zealand (2nd Edition). Thomson Reuters. Pages: 1399. Related URL.
  • Huang, C. C., Watson, S. M., & Chen, J. (2012). Putting “Why” Before “How”: Evaluating the Rationales for Partial Privatisation of State-Owned Enterprises in New Zealand. New Zealand Business Law Quarterly, 18 (3), 219-250. Related URL.
  • Vasudev, P. M., & Watson, S. (Eds.) (2012). Corporate Governance After the Financial Crisis. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. Pages: 320. 10.4337/9780857931535
  • Watson, S. M. (2011). The Significance of the Source of the Powers of Boards of Directors in UK Company Law. Journal of Business Law (6), 597-613.
  • Watson, S. M. (2011). Conceptual Confusion: Organs, Agents and Identity in the English Courts. Singapore Academy of Law Journal, 23 (Special), 762-794.


Contact details

Primary office location

9 EDEN CRESCENT - Bldg 801
Level 4, Room 414
New Zealand

Web links