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Lawyers forum aims to expand cooperation

By ZHANG YANGFEI in Guangzhou | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2019-12-10 09:11

Justice minister emphasizes need to facilitate a communication platform

The Global Lawyers Forum kicked off on Monday in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, aiming to deepen exchanges and cooperation among lawyers around the world.

The two-day forum, hosted by the All China Lawyers Association and supported by the Ministry of Justice, has attracted about 800 lawyers, judicial officials and legal experts to discuss topics covering legal services related to the Belt and Road Initiative, science and technology, cross-border investment, international trade and compliance, international commercial dispute resolution and public legal services and social responsibilities.

Justice Minister Fu Zhenghua said in his opening remarks that the forum is the first world lawyers event hosted by China, and it is practical for Chinese lawyers to facilitate a communication and cooperation platform and promote a bigger role for lawyers in the global governance system.

Fu said this year also marks the 40th anniversary of the restoration of China's lawyer system, which has made great progress along with the development of China's rule of law.

Over the past 40 years, the number of law firms in China has grown from 70 to more than 30,000, and practicing lawyers have increased from about 200 to more than 460,000.

He said Chinese lawyers handle more than 5 million lawsuits each year, along with more than 1 million non-litigation legal matters and more than 500,000 legal aid cases, and they also provided more than 2.3 million public welfare legal services a year.

They are also active participants in the international legal service market to help foster the development of the global economy and international trade, he added.

Lawyers from 36 countries and regions formed the Belt and Road International Lawyers Association on Sunday, with Fu saying it marked "a new stage in the exchange and cooperation of lawyers in countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative".

He suggested lawyers and bar associations around the world keep expanding cooperation and promote the signing of bilateral and multilateral agreements by governments, bar associations and law firms; break down barriers and open markets to each other; and actively innovate and improve the quality of legal services with the integration of advanced technology.

"China's door will only open wider and wider with increasing opportunities provided by China's reform and development," he said.

"We will unswervingly promote the comprehensive rule of law, develop the legal profession and push forward the exchanges between Chinese and foreign lawyers."

The forum, with the theme of "Scientific and Technological Progress and Legal Services", is addressing the challenges and opportunities brought by technological innovation to legal professions worldwide.

Twelve keynote speakers, including justice ministers from several countries and presidents of international bar organizations, mentioned in their speeches that technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data have proved helpful in legal work such as text analysis, reviewing contracts and the drafting of legal documents, saving a great deal of labor and legal costs, but have also sparked debate over the credibility of algorithms and AI-based tools and applications used in the judicial and legal fields.

Horacio Bernardes Neto, president of the International Bar Association, said it is a hot topic among the global legal community because technology is changing how lawyers work and how legal services are provided.

Wang Junfeng, president of the All China Lawyers Association, said science and technology had made "new requirements for the legal system and lawyers", adding that legal practitioners need to think more about how to take advantage of technologies and provide better services.

"The All China Lawyers Association is willing to take suggestions from all parties in the world with a more open mind, foster more extensive cooperation to gain more useful experiences and strive to improve the quality of legal services offered by Chinese lawyers," he said.

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