UTS site search

Dr Philippa Ryan


Dr Ryan's area of expertise is commercial equity, in particular the liability of third parties to a breach of trust. Her PhD formulated a new classification for Barnes v Addy liability. Her current research explores breach of fiduciary duty in apparently trustless commercial relationships and self-executing contracts, usually enabled by Blockchain technology. Dr Ryan designed and coordinates a commercial equity elective that examines directors’ duties, Ponzi schemes and the trust as an alternative to a corporate arrangement. Her teaching research investigates how authentic legal processes can improve law students' problem-solving. In conjunction with the UTS Connected Intelligence Centre, she is piloting the use of discourse analytics software to improve law students' legal writing skills.


  • Founding member of the UTS Blockchain Creative Cluster
  • Tutor on the NSW Bar Practice Course
  • Member of the NSW Society for Computers and the Law.
Image of Philippa Ryan
Lecturer, Faculty of Law
BA (USyd), LLB (Hons), Master of Education, PhD (Law)
Member, NSW Bar Association
+61 2 9514 3694

Research Interests

  • Third party liability in commercial equity
  • Fiduciary obligations in apparently trustless relationships and smart contracts
  • Legal responses to speculative bubbles
  • Disruptive legal technologies, bitcoin and the blockchain
Can supervise: Yes
  • Civil Practice
  • Commercial Equity
  • Equity and Trusts
  • Disruptive Technologies and the Law
  • Advocacy


Gibson, A., Knight, S., Aitken, A., Buckingham Shum, S., Ryan, P., Jarvis, W., Nikolova, N., Tsingos-Lucas, C., Parr, A., White, A. & Sutton, N. 2016, 'Using Writing Analytics For Formative Feedback', UTS Teaching and Learning Forum, University of Technology, Sydney.

Journal articles

Ryan, P. 2017, 'Teaching collaborative problem-solving skills to law students', The Law Teacher, vol. 51, no. 2, pp. 138-150.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Knight, S., Buckingham Shum, S., Ryan, P., Sándor, Á. & Wang, X. 2017, 'Academic Writing Analytics for Civil Law: Participatory Design Through Academic and Student Engagement', International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Research into the teaching and assessment of student writing shows that many students find academic writing a challenge to learn, with legal writing no exception. Improving the availability and quality of timely formative feedback is an important aim. However, the time-consuming nature of assessing writing makes it impractical for instructors to provide rapid, detailed feedback on hundreds of draft texts which might be improved prior to submission. This paper describes the design of a natural language processing (NLP) tool to provide such support. We report progress in the development of a web application called AWA (Academic Writing Analytics), which has been piloted in a Civil Law degree. We describe: the underlying NLP platform and the participatory design process through which the law academic and analytics team tested and refined an existing rhetorical parser for the discipline; the user interface design and evaluation process; and feedback from students, which was broadly positive, but also identifies important issues to address. We discuss how our approach is positioned in relation to concerns regarding automated essay grading, and ways in which AWA might provide more actionable feedback to students. We conclude by considering how this design process addresses the challenge of making explicit to learners and educators the underlying mode of action in analytic devices such as our rhetorical parser, which we term algorithmic accountability.
Evers, M. & Ryan, P. 2016, 'Exploring eCourt innovations in New South Wales civil courts', Journal of Civil Litigation and Practice, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 65-76.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Some New South Wales civil courts have recently introduced electronic filing and online pre-trial appearances. These innovations have different consequences for different users of the civil justice system. Whatever the ostensible benefit, any change to the way our justice system works must enable the purpose for which it exists: access to justice. For practitioners and self-represented litigants who would otherwise travel long distances to attend court, the time and costs savings could be significant. Of course, this intended outcome depends upon the reliability and usability of the technology, as well as the competence of the users. However, for those without these skills or those who do not have access to computers and/or the internet, this change could impede access to justice. It is too early to evaluate the success of this project, but lessons can be drawn from other jurisdictions. This article will explore potential advantages and disadvantages of these changes for self-represented litigants and legal professionals. It will conclude that as technology is disrupting all aspects of our social and commercial arrangements, it is logical that our courts will need to keep up.
Ryan, P.A. 2016, 'Examining breaches of fiduciary duty by solicitors in commercial arrangements', Australian Journal of Corporate Law, vol. 31, pp. 209-230.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS
This article will identify two key distinctions that need to be made in order to understand the consequences of breach of fiduciary duty by solicitors operating under different circumstances. These distinctions are between (i) solicitors acting as a trustee in relation to an express trust and those assisting their clients with commercial transactions; and (ii) breaches of fiduciary duty by solicitors that involve dishonesty and those that do not. Of particular interest is the different approaches taken in English and Australian courts with respect to the question of causation. This article will focus on breach of custodial fiduciary duties where the solicitor acts on behalf of a client. However, it will also touch on the implications for solicitors who are directors of an incorporated legal practice and whose breach is in the course of his or her duties as a director. It will conclude that while a solicitor's obligation to account follows from a breach of trust, the remedial consequences of a breach of fiduciary duty in commercial relationships demand an inquiry into whether the breach was fraudulent.
Ryan, P.A. & Evers, M. 2016, 'As barristers embrace technology, it is a brave new world for their clerks', Australian Bar Review, vol. 42, pp. 350-358.
View/Download from: UTS OPUS


Ryan, P.A. 2016, 'Don't blame Bitcoin for the madness of men', The Conversation.
The technology that drives Bitcoin enables almost riskless storage and transfer of value and data.
Ryan, P.A. 2016, 'Demystifying the blockchain: a basic user guide', The Conversation.
Companies around the world are exploring blockchain, the technology underpinning digital currency bitcoin. In this Blockchain unleashed series, we investigate the many possible use cases for the blockchain, from the novel to the transformative.
Buckingham Shum, S., Knight, S., Gibson, A.P., Ryan, P. & Aitken, A. 2016, 'Writing Analytics to Improve Formative Feedback'.
Webinar for Transforming Assessment
Ryan, P.A. 2013, 'A new classification for Barnes v Addy'.
This thesis explores third party liability for breach of trust and breach of fiduciary duty, in particular Lord Selborne's formulation in Barnes v Addy. It contends that what has come to be known as 'the two limbs of Barnes v Addy' is an oversimplification of an area of law that has a long and rich history. A new classification is suggested for third party liability pursuant to the Barnes v Addy line of cases, with legal foundations and equitable principles that are far better poised to inform third party liability than the limited scope of just 'two limbs'. As part of the foundation for a new classification, Part I of this thesis includes an review of the historical context in which core principles of third party liability have developed in the courts of Equity, in particular in the three centuries of Chancery cases leading up to the 1874 decision in Barnes v Addy. Part II sets out the four heads of fault-based liability that may attach to a stranger to a breach of trust. In considering the factual similarities that are the feature of these four categories of liability, this paper will suggest that their distinguishing features are significant and inform the case for a new classification. This thesis will settle the bases upon which the liability of third parties is established and which remedies are available to the complainant. The new classification categorises four distinct heads of liability. It provides a framework for analysis. It aims to achieve clarity, certainty and consistency for the way that third party liability is established in cases of breach of trust or breach of fiduciary duty and the bases upon which liability is determined.