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J W Carter biography

John Carter was born in England in 1953, the youngest of four. In 1960 his family migrated to Australia.

Early Career

After completing Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees at the University of Sydney in 1974 and 1976 respectively, John spent a year as Associate to the Hon Mr Justice Franki of the Federal Court of Australia. In 1978 he returned to England as a W M Tapp Research Student at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, graduating as a Doctor of Philosophy in 1981. Returning to Australia John took up a Lectureship in the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney.

As a Teacher and Scholar

At the University of Sydney, following promotions to senior lecturer and Associate Professor, John was awarded a personal chair in the field of Commercial Law in 1995. In 2014 he retired from the University of Sydney and was awarded the title of Professor Emeritus.

John taught a large number of subjects at the University of Sydney. In the LLB degree these included: Contracts, Commercial Law I, Advanced Contracts, Personal Property, Sale of Goods and Sydney Law Review. Courses taught by John in the LLM degree included: Restitution, E-commerce, International Business Law, Controlling Liability by Contract, Restitution for Unjust Enrichment, Restitution in the Context of Ineffective Contracts and Breach of Contract.

During his appointment at the University of Sydney, John spent periods as a visiting scholar at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and the University of Western Australia. He was also Visiting Professor, School of Law, Emory University. For several years John taught Product Liability and Contract Law in a Master of Science in Aerospace Design degree at the University of Bristol. He was also, for some years, an External Examiner in contract for the University of the West Indies.

John has presented conference papers at many international conferences, including in Aberystwyth, Auckland, Cambridge, Chicago, Kuala Lumpur, London, Oxford, Saba, San Francisco, Singapore and Toronto.

John’s contributions to the broader community include serving as an Honorary Member, Association of Fellows and Legal Scholars of the Centre for International Legal Studies, Salzburg, Austria, as a Member of the Education and Seminar Committee of the Australian Insurance Law Association and as a Member of the Education Committee, and later a director, of the Commercial Law Association of Australia. He was subsequently made a life member of the Commercial Law Association. Between 1986 and 1989 John served as a specialist consultant, and then a Commissioner (part-time), with the Law Reform Commission of New South Wales.

In 2014 John was made a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law.

As a Consultant and Expert

John’s experience with the law is diverse. During his time with the Law Reform Commission of New South Wales John prepared analyses on sale of goods law, which were subsequently published as Internal Discussion Paper on Sale of Goods Law, 1986, Report on Sale of Goods Law, LRC 51, 1987 and Issues Paper on Sale of Goods, IP 5, 1988. The report led to the enactment of the Sale of Goods (Amendment) Act 1988 (NSW). John has given expert evidence to courts in Korea, the United States and New Zealand. See Dymocks Franchise Systems (NSW) Pty Ltd v Todd [2004] 1 NZLR 289; [2002] UKPC 50.

John does not practise as a lawyer. However, he has acted as a consultant in major cases, such as Commonwealth of Australia v Amann Aviation Pty Ltd (1991) 174 CLR 64 and Roxborough v Rothmans of Pall Mall Australia Ltd (2001) 208 CLR 516; [2001] HCA 68. In 1992 he was engaged as a consultant by the international law firm now known as Herbert Smith Freehills, a position which he still holds.

As an Author and Editor

Specialising in Contract, transaction-based Commercial Law and Restitution, John has written extensively in all these areas. His PhD was published as Breach of Contract in 1984. Three further editions of that work have been published. The title of the current edition (published in 2018) is Carter’s Breach of Contract

John was co-author (with K E Lindgren and D J Harland) of Contract Law in Australia, 1986, the first Australian work on the law of contract. The 8th edition was published in 2023 under his sole authorship. He was also co-author, with Keith Mason of Restitution Law in Australia, 1996, the first Australian work on the subject. That work is currently in its 4th edition (with Keith Mason and G J Tolhurst) under the title Mason and Carter’s Restitution Law in Australia (2021). John also wrote Carter’s Guide to Australian Contract Law (the 4th edition was published in 2022) and The Construction of Commercial Contracts in 2013.

John has also edited collections of essays and works for other authors and contributed essays and chapters to larger works. John was the originating author of three titles in Halsbury’s Laws of Australia: Contract, Restitution (with Keith Mason and Andrew Bulley) and Sale of Goods. His published articles have appeared in many of the world’s leading journals, including the Cambridge Law Journal, Journal of Contract Law, Law Quarterly Review, Modern Law Review, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies and the Sydney Law Review.

John’s published work has been cited in courts around the world, including the High Court of Australia, the House of Lords, the Supreme Court of India, the Supreme Court of New Zealand, the Singapore Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. A list can be found in Andrew Phang and Goh Yihan, ‘Pioneering Scholar and Practitioner — the Life and Work of Professor J W Carter’ (2017) 34 JCL 100. See also Andrew Phang, ‘The Scholarship of Professor J W Carter: an Appreciation’ (2014) 28 (1) Commercial Law Quarterly 23.

In 1988 John established the Journal of Contract Law. He was the General Editor until March 2023. He is now the General Editor of the Contract and Commercial Law Review. He was also Executive Editor of the Sydney Law Review between 1990 and 1991.

2022 and Onwards

John continues to act as a consultant for Herbert Smith Freehills and write. In 2022 he established J W Carter Publishing Pty Ltd. The following works have been published under the company’s imprint — We are only VisitingCarter’s Guide to Australian Contract Law (4th edition) and  Contract Law in Australia (8th edition). Carter’s Breach of Contract (3rd edition) will be published in March 2024. The first volume of the Contract and Commercial Law Review published in 2023.

John Carter bio