Legal order that “guarantees good” must be properly funded, says Boris Johnson.

Legal order that “guarantees good” must be properly funded, says Boris Johnson.

Last week’s Global Law Summit (GLS) was billed as an event to showcase the best of the UK’s legal profession and, in three packed days, it largely lived up to the hype.

The organisers brought in some of the best-known names in the market, including leaders of the judiciary, senior partners and general counsel, plus a galaxy of star silks, to debate the rule of law.

However, most applause at the event and on social media went to London Mayor Boris Johnson, who gave a barnstorming speech towards the end of the summit.

Boris Johnson
Johnson: put British law in the dock

Using the conceit that the “whole British legal system” is “in the dock”, Johnson presented the case for and against his argument and concluded that the “British legal system guarantees all that is good about the UK and London”.

Johnson’s characteristic levity was set against the more serious tone of other speakers, many of whom used the occasion – against the background of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta – to praise the UK’s legal system while warning of the pressing need for funding to be maintained.

Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger summed up this attitude when closing the conference: “In today’s world, with the power of governments growing and the law getting more complex, it is vital there is a legal system that is truly accessible to everyone, properly funded and administered.”

Neuberger’s words echoed those of Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, who kicked off the GLS by telling delegates that maintaining the rule of law can have a “heavy price”.

“But it is one we all should gladly be prepared to pay,” he added.

“It is the foundation on which a just society has grown and flourished.”

Criminal Bar Association chair Tony Cross QC roundly criticised the Government for its cuts to legal aid – his words echoing the opinions of protestors representing many parts of the profession outside the conference hall.

Other speakers, who made varying impacts on delegates, included Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling MP; Attorney-General Jeremy Wright QC; the prime minister of Kazakhstan Karim Massimov; and Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Issues as diverse as bribery, women in law and data security were covered.

A separate stream was held at the Rolls Building, where members of the judiciary and top barristers spoke on the use of the English courts for international disputes.

Delegates from around the world appeared engaged in learning from the UK’s legal market. As Thomson Reuters president (legal) Susan Taylor-Martin noted, the UK is a “petri dish of innovation” – and the world knows it.

The Lawyer editorial staff

#GLS2015: top Tweets 

@jsmackenzie: Robust opening at #GLS2015 with emphasis on core themes: justice, rule of law, access to justice, and developing economic and social context

@TheLawyerTasha: Yum GC Sarah Nelson-Smith says that in last panel review “we met more people named Mark than women” #gls2015 #diversity #inhouse

@ddenissmith: At end of the #womeninlaw panel at #GLS2015 80% of audience voted that the discussion did not change their view on the topic #longwaytogo

@TheCriminalBar: TCQC “we are here to celebrate Magna Carta. To no-one will we sell, to no-one deny or delay right or justice”

@TheLawSociety: “Fundamental rights must also exist online” – Vera Jourova, EU Comm. for Justice, Consumer & Gender Equality #GLS2015 #digitalMagnaCarta

@p_robertsonQC: Susskind envisages future law schools will specify core IT subjects alongside core legal areas. #GLS2015

@SeanLawInSport: Enjoyed chairing a panel session at the @globallawsummit today on the globalisation of sport. #GLS2015

@thelawyermatt: A&O’s Morley: I see an absolute explosion of opportunity for young people entering the law #GLS2015

@thelawyercatrin: Passmore: we as a profession take privilege for granted – but technology has been used covertly to curtail this right #privacy #GLS2015

@BengtIvarsson: Interesting discussion at fantastic Guildhall with lawyers from Kazakhstan. Different countries but a lot in common. #GLS2015

@thebarcouncil: Lord Pannick: If Lord Chancellor wraps self in #MagnaCarta, he looks ridiculous when limits #judicialreview at same time. #GLS2015

@globallawsummit: “If your brand reputation suffers locally, it will now be heard internationally,” says Cherie Blair QC #GLS2015

@TheLawyerNat: There won’t be so much activism hitting the headlines in the UK as in the US, but there will be much more activity in coming years #GLS2015

@TonyFisherFJG: Lord Dyson at #GLS2015 on Magna Carta. It’s one thing to say the right things and another thing to do the right things. Left that hanging

@ChamberlinLaw: Brilliantly humorous keynote speech by Boris Johnson @MayorofLondon at the @globallawsummit. Great reflection of an amazing city. #GLS2015

@TheLawyerTabby: “Genuine access to justice in all courts is essential if a society is to maintain adherence to the rule of law” – Neuberger #GLS2015