Lawrence took his law degrees at Cambridge and Columbia University in New York, and qualified as a solicitor in 1968. He was a partner in Herbert Smith & Co from 1971 to 2000, specialising in international litigation. In 2000 he became a High Court judge as Mr Justice Lawrence Collins; in 2007 he was appointed to the Court of Appeal as Lord Justice Lawrence Collins; in 2009 he was appointed to the House of Lords (Appellate Committee) as Lord Collins of Mapesbury, and served as a Justice of the UK Supreme Court from 2009, when it succeeded to the judicial functions of the House of Lords.
He is the author of books and articles on public and private international law, and since 1987 he has been General Editor of Dicey & Morris (now Dicey, Morris & Collins) on The Conflict of Laws (now in its 15th edition). Since his retirement from the Supreme Court in 2011, he has served as an international arbitrator; a non-permanent judge of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal; Professor of Law, University College London; and Visiting Professor at Columbia University and New York University. He was elected a member of the Institut de droit international in 1989 and a Fellow of the British Academy in 1994.
Lawrence holds the following positions:
- Professor of Law, University College London
- Non-permanent judge, Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal
- Fellow, British Academy
- Member, Institut de droit international
- Honorary Fellow, Downing College Cambridge