Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly

The rule of law, the courts and the British economy

Lord Hodge*

This lecture addresses the importance of the rule of law to the prosperity of the United Kingdom. It looks at the history of the involvement of businesspeople, and in particular the City of London, in developing our commercial law in collaboration with the judiciary. It records the significant role of English law in international commerce and the benefits which that brings to the United Kingdom. It calls for a partnership between business, the legal professions, Government and Parliament in adapting our law to facilitate and accommodate the emerging digital economy in order to preserve the position of the City as a commercial hub and the United Kingdom as a major legal dispute resolution centre.
My theme in this paper is the contribution of the rule of law to the British economy and the role which the courts, the legal profession and businesspeople play in upholding the rule of law in changing circumstances. The significance of the role of London in the provision of international legal services is well known. I will suggest that the pre-eminence of English law is partly the result of our economic history and the way in which the common law has developed. I will also argue that the continued collaboration between the judiciary, the legal professions, the business community, the Government and Parliament in adapting our law to social and economic changes should continue to play a vital role in preserving this country’s reputation as a rule of law nation and as a place where international business can be transacted and where legal disputes can be resolved.
London’s position as a leading centre of international legal services is in part a product of history. As you will hear, the Guildhall, where we meet today, features more than once in that history. That history illustrates the great strengths of our commercial law: freedom of contract, party autonomy, certainty and flexibility. Those attributes have been developed in large measure by a judiciary who have been supportive of commerce and have sought to develop legal rules that reflect the changing realities of commercial practice. Today, we are a rule of law society; we have world-leading commercial courts with specialist expertise, arbitral tribunals with similar expertise, and a critical mass of expert commercial lawyers in London. These qualities have made English law popular internationally as the governing law for commercial transactions, and this jurisdiction as a place for resolving disputes in our courts and arbitral tribunals.

The rule of law, the courts and the British economy


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