Vice President Christina Blacklaws gave opening remarks at the second UK-China Rule of Law for Business Roundtable on 6 November 2017 at the Great Britain China Centre (GBCC) in London.

She spoke to an audience of lawyers, businesspeople, judges, politicians, academics and policy-makers from the UK and China.

On her panel she was joined by Sir Martin Davidson - GBCC Chairman, Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP - Shadow Digital Minister, Lord Thomas - the immediate former Lord Chief Justice, Andrew Langdon QC - Chairman of the Bar Council of England and Wales, Lise Bertelsen - Executive Director of the China-Britain Business Council and Mr Zhang Mingqi - Vice-President of the China Law Society.

Opening Remarks at the second UK-China Rule of Law for Business Roundtable

Thank you to the Great Britain China Centre and the China Law Society for inviting us, the Law Society of England and Wales, to take part in this important event.

Last year, we were delighted to meet with the Vice President Zhang Mingqi of the China Law Society where we accepted an invitation to be part of the first UK-China Rule of Law Roundtable in Beijing in November. This high level conference brought our legal professions closer together.

During the visit to Beijing, we had the privilege of meeting with the then Secretary of the Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China, Meng Jianzhu to discuss the rule of law and business.

Then in July this year, we met the Chinese Vice-Minister for Justice Xiong Xuanguo in London and continued our dialogue.  That was just the start of the journey and this roundtable is the next step in this collaborative endeavour.

As you may know the Law Society is the representative body for solicitors in England and Wales - solicitors being one of two types of lawyers in our system.

Our Society is independent from government and apolitical. We represent, promote and support our 180,000 members at home and abroad. This includes about 150 English and Welsh solicitors practising in 25 UK firms with over 40 offices across mainland China.

As well as co-operating with the China Law Society we also have a strong relationship with our counterpart, the All-China Lawyers Association. We have a formal co-operation agreement with them as well as the Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen bar associations, and we work very closely for the benefit our professions.

We are all part of an international legal community. A number of Chinese firms have opened up in London in the past few years, with some advising clients on both Chinese law and the law of England and Wales and we are delighted that they are in the country. Some of which we are pleased to say are part of our International Division.

Recent political developments, technology and globalisation have challenged the boundaries of jurisdictions and geographical limits, so this roundtable on the rule of law in the digital age is very timely.

I am pleased to see that two of our members, Craig Giles and Phil Sherrell (both Partners at Bird & Bird) will be speaking on a panel about the legal aspects of digital property and digital business in the UK and China.

The Law Society has explored these themes in our reports on the Future of Legal Services (2016) , Capturing Technological Innovation in Legal Services (2017) and in a  roundtable as part of the Opening of the Legal Year - President, David Yu, from the Shanghai Bar Association participated.

Some of the main conclusions from our research are:

  • Our laws, our judicial system and our legal practices are being reshaped by technology.
  • The courts are also embracing technology. They are starting to move away from paper based systems towards online working.
  • Thanks to technology, firms are already changing or rethinking their own processes and business models. We are adapting and thriving.
  • But the uses and application of artificial intelligence and machine learning are becoming more complex and sophisticated - in some instances the applications of machine learning are dictating the way that we do law.
  • There is a need for the legal profession to step up, scan the horizon to anticipate tomorrow’s needs and contribute to the development of the necessary legal measures today.
  • Lawyers need to work together not only with policy makers and legislators, but also with businesses leaders from technology companies who are at the forefront of developing these type of new technologies. A partnership of this sort will enable us to answer these questions effectively from the outset, as the technology is developed; this way we will ensure that legal safeguards are thought up and put in place from the outset. 

But equally important is for these technological innovations to be deeply rooted in the rule of law.  Respecting  the rule of law and its principles is necessary to safeguard the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession.

Lawyers play a vital role in upholding it. They help in building prosperous economies due to their skills and position in society.  It is in China’s interests to continue to strengthen the rule of law to help it meet its ambitious economic growth targets.

I look forward to exploring these issues today with you.

Today more than ever there is a need for the professions to work together on these themes and support each other as part of an international community, enabling and furthering the interests of our clients and our communities.   

I hope we can work together even closer and build on this solid foundation. We look forward to working even more closely with our Chinese counterparts and the Great Britain China Centre.

I hope you find the roundtable useful and enjoyable.

Thank you.

For more information on our work with China, email