In Honour of Professor Robert Rennie

Conveyancing Jun 10, 2015

In 2014, Robert Rennie retired from the post he had held since 1994 as Professor of Conveyancing at the University of Glasgow. This brought an end to part – but only part – of a remarkable career encompassing both academia and legal practice. Robert qualified as a solicitor in 1969, having previously studied at the University of Glasgow, completing a part-time PhD thesis on Floating Charges – A Treatise from the Standpoint of Scots Law in 1972. He worked as a solicitor in the west of Scotland, where he played a leading role in the expansion of the firm of Ballantyne and Copland, and was appointed to the part-time Chair of Conveyancing at Glasgow in 1994.

This appointment was not an honorific one in acknowledgment of Robert’s contribution to practice, distinguished though that is. It was a recognition of his considerable academic talents, already demonstrated through such work as his 1993 book on Missives (with Douglas Cusine, sometime Professor of Conveyancing at the University of Aberdeen). At Glasgow, a series of books followed, including The Requirements of Writing (1995, with Cusine), Solicitors’ Negligence (1997), a second edition of Missives (1999), Minerals and the Law in Scotland (2001), Land Tenure Reform (2003), Land Tenure in Scotland (2004) and Conveyancing in the Electronic Age (2008, with Stewart Brymer). A further multi-author book on Leases will be published later this year.

Robert can now add to his bookshelf this Festschrift, Essays in Conveyancing and Property Law in Honour of Professor Robert Rennie, which has been published to celebrate his remarkable career. In this volume, nineteen distinguished academics and practitioners cover a range of topics in the law of property and conveyancing, including a retrospective of Robert’s career by his university contemporary, the distinguished judge Lord Bonomy.

All Robert’s scholarly work – accompanied by journal articles, new editions, and over 4000 professional opinions written on the subject of conveyancing – took place alongside a distinguished continuing career in practice and innovative contributions to university teaching. Robert developed new courses for honours students in the final two years of their degree, among them “Advanced Negligence” – sometimes, as Lord Bonomy’s contribution notes, referred to as “Complete Incompetence”. He made considerable contributions to public life through the Law Society of Scotland and, outside of law, in his work with the Lanarkshire Spastics Association, now part of Capability Scotland.

Throughout his time in practice, he developed a deserved reputation as a genial colleague, generous with his time, a ready source of wisdom, advice, and expertise, and also humour. These qualities were equally evident in his contribution to the academic world, even if his university colleagues never experienced him impersonating an Alsatian in an attempt to distract a colleague from a client interview. His colleagues will miss him, although his contribution to academic life will continue, and he is already working on a new contribution on conveyancing for the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia, the leading reference work on Scots law. The contributions to this Festschrift are a fitting recognition of his work.


Each chapter of Essays in Conveyancing and Property Law covers a topic of particular interest to Professor Rennie during his career, from the historical development of property law rules through to the latest developments in conveyancing practice and the evolution of the rules of professional negligence. Although primarily Scottish in focus, the contributions will have much of interest to lawyers in any jurisdiction struggling with similar practical problems, particularly those with similar legal roots including the Netherlands and South Africa. As a whole, the collection is highly recommended to students, practitioners and academics.

James Chalmers

James Chalmers is Regius Professor of Law at the University of Glasgow.