On the 21st of September 2015, over 100 members of the Chinese and international legal communities came together for a one-day seminar on the subject of English Law and its Application in Trade and Investment at the ARIVA Hotel in Beijing, organised by the Centre for Common Law, the Great Britain China Centre, Renmin University Lawyer College and the Law Society of England and Wales. The event coincided with the UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue in Beijing, led by Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, and Chinese Vice-Premier Ma Kai, at which the Chancellor encouraged closer business ties between China and the UK.
The seminar 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. English law is of strong and growing interest to the international legal community; it is the legal system of choice for 40% of international contracts worldwide, coming second is New York law which is used for 17% of contracts worldwide.
Opening remarks by Stephen Denyer (Head of City and International, Law Society) highlighted the fact that the application of English law for trade and investments are of increasing interest to international lawyers against a backdrop of increasing bilateral UK-China trade. Following Mr Denyer, Professor Shi Yan’an (Deputy Director, Centre for Common Law) commented that the Centre for Common Law is devoted to the research and application of common law values and principles, so it was natural for the Centre to organise such an event to raise awareness of English law among lawyers and scholars. Zhang Wei, the Vice-President of the Beijing Lawyers Association, noted that her association pays high attention to training and improving the professional skills of Chinese lawyers practising international law. This seminar is thus an exceptionally good chance for exchange between British and Chinese lawyers, she said. Concluding the opening remarks, Liu Ruiqi (Dean, Lawyers College) highlighted the fact that convergence of common law and continental legal systems is the current direction legal development is taking. He remarked that not only did this seminar provide a platform for practising lawyers and professors to share each other’s experiences, it also provided an opportunity to expose legal students and future lawyers to the world of professional practice.
The majority of the audience was made up of lawyers practising in China, in addition to trainee lawyers and law students. A number of partners from major international firms acted as panel moderators, including Michael Fosh from Reed Smith, Andrew McGinty from Hogan Lovells and Nick Beckett from CMS Cameron McKenna, to add to sixteen Chinese and international panel speakers. Sessions covered at the seminar addressed diverse topics such as why use English law in transactions with Chinese parties; resolving international disputes in London using English law; mergers and acquisitions; setting up overseas; and English law in education and training. The seminar attracted attendees from 46 law firms, notably including major Chinese firms such as DeHeng Law Offices, Zhong Lun W&D Law Firm and Global Law Office.
We received the following comments from lawyers who attended English Law Day:
“I found the content of the event very useful. I am thinking to register in a foreign legal system; previously I was thinking of the USA system, but after today,s event I may look into the opportunities (in the UK).” Mr Wang Pengfei, DeHeng Law Offices
“The event is very informative, and I am happy to find there are more business opportunities in the UK. I used to only focus on Asian markets, as I know little about the UK or Europe. Now I (have) some general information on the possibility of helping my client to set up business in Europe.” Mr Tang Jialin, Shangtai Law Firm
“We don,t have a partner in the UK, but the event provided good opportunities for us to talk to law firms from the UK, who could be our future partners.” Ms Ma Jinhui, Zhong Yin Law Firm
The Centre for Common Law is grateful to the All China Lawyers Association, Beijing Lawyers Association, Shenzhen Lawyers Association and Guangdong Lawyers Association for their support to the seminar. The event was excellently concluded by Ms Han Jun, the Vice-President of the Shenzhen Lawyers Association, who summed up the day’s discussion on behalf of the organisers.