Lawrence Collins was born on 7 May 1941 and educated at City of London School. He went on to study law at Downing College, Cambridge, graduating with a starred first class degree in 1963, when he was also awarded the McNair Scholarship in International Law and the George Long Prize for Civil Law. He gained his LLB the following year (again at Downing College), when he also received the Whewell Scholarship. He went on to study at Columbia Law School in New York where he received his LLM in 1965. In 1994 he graduated as a Doctor of Laws (LLD) from Cambridge University and in 2000 he was made an honorary fellow of Downing College.

Lord Collins made legal history by becoming the first judge from the solicitor’s branch of the legal profession to reach the most senior court of England and Wales, having started his career at Herbert Smith & Co. (he became a partner in 1971 and headed their Litigation and Arbitration Department from 1995-98). In 1997 he became one of the first two practicing solicitors to be appointed to Queen’s Council, and in the same year he was appointed a deputy high court judge. He was appointed to the High Court in 2000 (the first solicitor to be appointed direct from private practice), to the Court of Appeal in 2007 (the first former solicitor to be appointed), and was appointed a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 2009. He succeeded Lord Hoffman in the Supreme Court on 1 October 2009.

Possibly his most high profile case was his representation of the Government of Chile in the case to extradite General Pinochet, where he argued that the UK had no right to deal with the allegations against the General, saying that “these are not matters for foreign courts” but for the courts in Chile.[1]

In 2006 Lord Collins was one of the judges in the landmark case which saw two men ordered to pay between £1,500 and £5,000 to the British Phonographic Industry (the “BPI”) for making thousands of songs available online using peer-to-peer software. Lord Collins declared, in response to one of the defendants’ claim that he did not know that he was doing anything illegal, that “ignorance is not a defence”.[2] The BPI called the decisions “a massive step forward” for the music industry.[3]

As well as his prestigious career practicing as a solicitor and as a judge, Lord Collins has held several academic appointments. He was made a fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge in 1975, and has been a visiting professor at Queen Mary College, London since 1982. He has also lectured at the Hague Academy of International Law (1991, 1998, 2007), Kings College, London (1995), The British Institute of International and Comparative Law (2001), and The Hebrew University, Jerusalem (2007).

Lord Collins’ main areas of expertise are international law and conflict of laws, and he has published numerous books and articles in both these areas (e.g. Essays in International Litigation and the Conflict of Laws, 1994) and is the General Editor of Dicey, Morris and Collins (formerly Dicey & Morris) on the Conflict of Laws (11th edn 1987 and 14th edn 2006), arguably the leading work in its field. He has also been a member of several committees and working parties relating to these areas of expertise, and chaired the Committee on International Securities Regulation between 1988 and 1994.

Lord Collins has two children (one son and one daughter) and was married to Sara Shamni from 1982 until 2003.