Professor Elaine Sutherland

Professor of Child and Family Law

Law University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA

Professor Elaine Sutherland

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About me

Professor Sutherland began her career in academia at the University of Edinburgh, in 1980, subsequently moving to the University of Glasgow. In 2006, she was recruited by the University of Stirling to join the newly-created Stirling Law School as Professor of Child and Family Law and she continues to research and teach there.

Having spent half of each year researching and teaching at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, for some 20 years until 2018, she is now a Distinguished Professor of Law Emerita there and will continue her relationship with Lewis & Clark Law School on a less scheduled basis.

In 2020, she was appointed a professor at the University of Bergen, Norway, where she is working as part of an international team on a research project, Legitimacy Challenges – An analysis of mistrust in core institutions and the normative fundament of the welfare state.

She lectures and presents on child and family law around the world and, in addition to her work in the Scottish and US domestic contexts, has long pursued her interest in the comparative and international aspects of the subject.

Professor Sutherland is the sole author of well over 100 articles and book chapters and 6 books and the editor or co-editor of 9 other volumes (see, Outputs). Some reflect her comparative and international law interests: see, for example, two volumes published by Cambridge University Press, The Future of Child and Family Law: International Predictions (2012) and Implementing Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: Best Interests, Welfare and Well-being (2016). Other publications focus on Scots child and family law and, most recently, they have addressed law reform, intimate adult relationships, child-parent relationships, child protection and juvenile justice. Yet other publications are concerned with more general developments in contemporary Scots law and its history. Since 1983, she has contributed the Scottish chapter to the International Survey of Family Law, the annual flagship publication of the International Society of Family Law, the leading academic organisation in the field.

In 2012, she founded the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Implementing Project (CRC-IP) to explore implementation of the CRC in the international and comparative contexts. To date, the CRC-IP has organised five international colloquia, examining article 12 (participation rights of the child: University of Auckland, New Zealand, 2013), article 6 (child's right to life, survival and development: University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2014), article 3 (primacy of the child's best interests: Edinburgh, Scotland, 2015), article 2 (prohibition of discrimination: University of Bergen, Norway, 2017) and article 5 (parental guidance and child's evolving capacities: University of Cambridge, England, 2019).

She is nominated regularly (most recently in 2020) for awards under the student-led Recognising Achievement in Teaching Excellence (RATE) Awards scheme, and won the award for Most Innovative Tutor in 2011.

Professor Sutherland has been a member of the Family Law Committee of the Law Society of Scotland for over 35 years and, in 2019, was appointed by the Scottish Law Commission to its Advisory Group on Cohabitation. She is consulted regularly by government agencies, non-governmental organisations and the media on child and family law and reform thereof and attends and presents papers at national and international conferences.

She regards academic life as offering the best of all worlds: opportunities to teach, research, write and travel.

Current Appointments:  Professor of Child and Family, Law School of Law, University of Stirling, 2006 - present; Distinguished Professor of Law Emerita, Lewis & Clark Law School, Portland, Oregon, 2018 - present; Professor, University of Bergen, 2020 - present,

Academic and Professional Qualifications:   LLB (1st class Honours in Private Law), University of Glasgow, 1978; LLM, University of British Columbia, Canada, 1985; Fellow of the Higher Education Academy since 2001.

Principal previous appointments: Distinguished Professor of Law, Lewis & Clark Law School, Portland, Oregon, 1999-2018; Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, School of Law, University of Glasgow, 1989-2005; Lecturer, Department of Scots Law, University of Edinburgh, 1980-1988; Apprentice Solicitor, Drummond & Co, W.S., Edinburgh, 1979-1980.

Current Research Projects:   Professor Sutherland is currently working on the third edition of her treatise, Child and Family Law; on a number of articles; and, as part of an international research team, on the Legitimacy Challenges project at the University of Bergen(

Teaching: Family Law; Domestic Relations (Honours); Child Law (Honours).

Funding Awarded: Professor Sutherland received funding from the Clark Foundation for the third Convention on the Rights of the Child Implementation Project colloquium (see above). The colloquium was also supported by the Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society of Scotland.

Professional Affiliations: American Bar Association; Children 1st; Family Law Academic Network Scotland; Family Law Association; Higher Education Academy; International Society of Family Law; Law Society of Scotland, Committee on Family Law; National Association of Counsel for Children (USA); Scottish Child Law Centre; Scottish Child Law Group; Scottish Legal Action Group; Society of Legal Scholars; Together (Scottish Children's Rights Alliance).