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Global Britain and the law reception opening remarks

by Simon Davis
29 November 2018

Simon Davis delivered his opening remarks at the Global Britain and the law reception at the Houses of Parliament on 26 November 2018.

He addressed 40 influential members of the profession, MPs, members of the judiciary and senior officials.

Introduction

Good evening everyone.

My name is Simon Davis and I am the vice-president of the Law Society of England and Wales.

I am delighted to welcome you all to Parliament. Thank you all for coming.

I would particularly like to thank Bob Seely MP for sponsoring today's event and arranging this suitably prestigious venue.

Bob is a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. He is an internationalist and a real champion for Global Britain and the rule of law, which is why we are all here tonight including, I am delighted to say, Members of Parliament from across the parties.

I am also pleased to see such a broad representation from all areas of the legal sector and indeed clients, which the legal sector exists to serve.

Global legal centre campaign

We are here tonight to celebrate and promote England and Wales as a global legal centre of choice.

The Law Society of England and Wales, alongside the Bar, the judiciary and the legal profession generally, has been running a campaign for the past two years highlighting the benefits of England and Wales as a global legal centre.

Tonight you can pick up a copy of our new leaflet, which we have developed for overseas audiences and legal practitioners to highlight some of the many benefits in our own right, without running down the competition.

Competition

For some years now, the competition to be the forum of choice for the resolution of legal disputes has been fierce. And the reason why is often misunderstood.

It is because when business can be confident that its business differences will be resolved in a jurisdiction in a way that is familiar, non-partisan, expert and commercially focused, they will bring their business to that jurisdiction beyond the resolution of disputes and have confidence in that jurisdiction when its representatives sit on the other side of the negotiating table.

And the present uncertainties caused by Brexit has given the competition a stick to beat us with. And indeed the words 'It's all terribly uncertain' tend to be the concluding words of far too many question and answer sessions involving the B word.

But as I said recently at an event hosted by the Law Society welcoming the Russian legal community, there are some absolute certainties that will continue and are at the heart of this campaign.

Certainty

The reason why clients choose English and Welsh law have not changed. English will remain the international language for business. The common law is one thoroughly familiar to the English speaking nations around the world from the United States to Australia, Canada to Hong Kong, India to Singapore.

Even where the parties come from civil law jurisdictions, so many of them are already familiar with the benefits of our system of law that develops alongside complex developments in the world of business and finance and uses a strong bench of precedent.

And, fundamentally, whatever the outcome of Brexit it leaves unaffected the application of the Rome I and II Regulations, meaning that Brexit has no impact on a party's choice of law. The choice of the laws of England and Wales will continue to be respected.

The judges of England and Wales will still be of the highest calibre, experienced in dealing with commercial disputes that have an international dimension. At any one time 80% of the cases in the Rolls Buildings have one or both parties coming from overseas and are specialist where the specialist needs to be - the financial list being a fine example of how our judges adapt to ensure that disputes arising from the world of finance are resolved by those who know exactly what they are talking about and deciding upon.

Our world class solicitors and barristers will still be right here - indeed, all around me - working as part of an open global community to resolve the modern day disputes, so many of which have a cross border element.

And if you need anything else, London is a highly respected home for arbitration with world class arbitrators, legal advisers and arbitration organisations whose arbitration awards are enforced effectively around the world.

All these certainties remain. So what's left? There are those that say that if English and Welsh law is chosen (and therefore naturally England and Wales would be the choice of jurisdiction) there may be courts across Europe who will not recognise that jurisdiction choice or not enforce our court judgments. So, better choose another jurisdiction and therefore another law.

Even before the Brussels Convention, England and Wales showed itself to be an open jurisdiction recognising the choice laws of others and enforcing the judgement of others.

I hear no suggestion that such openness should change and in circumstances where their own citizens and companies are so often involved in cross border disputes, where even a small online business is exposed to the rules and regulations outside its own countries' borders and where those citizens and businesses more than ever before will need certainty, I see no reason why our friends in Europe should seek to erect barriers in the way of those citizens and companies choices of law and jurisdiction.

Freedom of client choice and the legal enforcement of that choice, ladies and gentlemen, lies at the heart of the rule of law, contrasted with the law of the jungle.

I am optimistic that arrangements will be reached which allow UK and European citizens and corporates to continue to choose the law and jurisdictions that suit them best.

I also remain optimistic that the certain benefits of England and Wales as a global legal centre will continue to attract business to our shores, but we owe our clients and our system a responsibility to be out from dawn to dusk ensuring that those certain benefits are neither taken for granted nor overlooked by clients or government.

And, with your help, I am sure that such responsibility will be discharged.

Thank you.