Legal development

One of the UKs most senior judges highlights the key role of English law

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    In a speech given on 4 October 2022 by Lord Hodge, Deputy President of the UK Supreme Court, entitled the Rule  of Law, the Courts and the British Economy, he highlighted London’s position as a leading centre of international legal services. He also identified three characteristics of English commercial law which had emerged from history. First, the freedom of contract, including liability grounded on promises: "In English law, you tend to get what you bargained for, and parties are held to their bargains." Second, certainty; the strict application of rules was not to be whittled away (quoting from a case) “by introducing unnecessary exceptions…" and by keeping equitable doctrines at bay. Third, flexibility to accommodate commercial reality, and the reasonable expectations, needs and developments of market participants. Having highlighted the enormous amount of economic activity governed by English law and that the  UK is the second largest legal services market in the world, he looked to the future. 

    The unique position of English law in international commerce was in part the product of continued legal innovation by businesses, the legal profession, the courts, and Parliament, as well as the continued presence of a critical mass of highly skilled legal professionals in the UK. He also pointed to opportunities to increase the value of English law to the UK economy by its application as the main governing law in new growth markets. For example, promoting the use of English law in Fintech fits with the UK government’s strategy to attract more technological innovations into the financial services sector and the UK’s position as a pre-eminent financial centre. One of the greatest attributes of the common law is its ability to react quickly to the new whilst providing predictability and stability, as to which he gave digital assets as an example.

    Authors: Nathan Willmott, Partner, and David Capps, Senior Consultant