English Law Day

English Law Day 2015

Summary

On the 21st September 2015, over 100 members of the Chinese and international legal communities attended a one-day seminar on the subject of English Law and its application in trade and investment and evening reception at the ARIVA Hotel in Beijing, organised by the Great Britain-China Centre with partners, the Centre for Common Law at Renmin University of China, Renmin University Lawyer College and the Law Society of England and Wales.

The seminar was timed to take place during the UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue, led by the visiting Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne and Vice-Premier Ma Kai.

English law and its international applications, especially for trade and investment, is of strong and growing interest to the international legal community. English law is the legal system of choice for 40% of international contracts worldwide, second only to New York law which is used for 17% of contracts worldwide. The reasons for this include the comparatively fast speed at which disputes can be taken to court (one year on average for English law compared to two to three years in other favoured jurisdictions such as New York and Germany), the number of specialist judges and tribunals in the English courts, and the significant power of English judges over disputed assets due to the City of London’s position as an international business hub. Perhaps stated more powerfully, English common law is of particular favour to governing business because, as speaker Nick Dunnell from Farrer & Co said: “(In English law) you can do anything, unless it’s prohibited”, which lends an advantage over codified civil law systems.

Objectives & Rationale

This seminar event set out to explore the practical applications of English law in international transactions involving parties from both common law jurisdictions and civil law countries such as China, with a particular focus on how English law can be applied to the benefit of international investment and trade. The seminar was held as part of GBCC’s plan to build partnerships in China to help develop the rule of law, as Beijing implements a series of reforms including the greater professionalisation of the Chinese judiciary.

As Chinese law firms expand around the world in support of more outward investment by Chinese companies, there is a growing need in Beijing for training in English Law. International law firms have also been expanding by recruiting young Chinese lawyers, although under Chinese regulations foreign law firms are not yet permitted to practice Chinese law in China. Renmin University Law School established the Common Law Centre last September partly to help meet the need for more education and training in China in English law and Hong Kong law and the legal systems of other common law jurisdictions including the United States, Canada and Australia. Some of the larger Chinese law firms have merged with international law firms over the past few years, creating global leviathans such as King & Wood Mallesons, which brought together one of China’s top law firms with a leading Australian firm and a London-based British firm.

Partners, Speakers, & Attendees

A total of 115 people attended the seminar, the majority of whom were lawyers practising in China, in addition to trainee lawyers and law students. There were attendees from 46 law firms, notably including major Chinese firms such as De Heng Law Offices, Zhong Lun W&D Law Firm and Global Law Office.

GBCC’s partners to organise the conference were the Law Society of England and Wales, the Centre for Common Law and Renmin University Lawyer College. The Law Society invited 14 expert speakers from top international firms, including King & Wood Mallesons and Reed Smith, most of whom had significant work experience in China and East Asia. Donna Evans, International Policy Adviser for North Asia and the Pacific at the Law Society, said the event had attracted considerable interest in the Law Society’s Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) which offers lawyers from other jurisdictions an accelerated way to practice as solicitors in England and Wales.

Renmin University Lawyer College invited an audience of 40 law students keen to understand the benefits of incorporating English law practice into their post-graduation careers at an early stage. The law students commented that sessions on mergers and acquisitions, mitigating risk in drafting contracts, setting up overseas operations, litigating in England and Wales and arbitrating in London were of particularly useful because they were designed to be practical and included industry case studies.

In addition, the event was supported by the All China Lawyers Association, Beijing Lawyers Association, Shenzhen Lawyers Association and Guangdong Lawyers Association. Beijing Lawyers Association expressed a desire to partner with GBCC directly in future for similar trade and investment-focused events targeted at top domestic and international law firms in China.

Date posted: 07 October 2015

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