Overcoming the barriers of borders

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We live in a world where geopolitical boundaries have faded with the evolution of technology and the vision of those who would rather build cross-border ties than unilateral walls that separate and isolate. Even with some decidedly nationalistic trends of late, the long game remains inclusive, and in virtually no other profession is this idea more tangible than the legal one, which provides the building blocks for human rights, free and competitive trade and, from all this, inevitable economic development.

In The big picture, our cover story for this issue, we talk exclusively with none other than the top legal figure in the United Nations, Miguel de Serpa Soares. As under-secretary-general for Legal Affairs and UN Legal Counsel, there are few more qualified to provide the kinds of legal insights at a macro level than he.

In this article, Serpa Soares explains his legal team and how it is structured, and gives frank and open views on everything from the Belt and Road initiative to legal frameworks that enable paperless trade, trade law reforms, and UNCITRAL’s key role in the Asia-Pacific. His views on what he has learned after four years in the job and his take on the impact of our uncertain times and the legal challenges they pose make this article a must read.

This issue we also introduce Straight talk, a brand new section that aims to provide concise and erudite views on target issues from the perspectives of one general counsel and one lawyer who have particular knowledge in that area. Our first Straight talk covers Chinese investment into the US. We canvassed our two experts, one a renowned GC in Washington and the other a prominent Beijing lawyer, on everything from legal traps to cultural pitfalls and, of course, the Trump factor. Their views are well worth a look and we aim to make Straight talk a regular feature in our pages.

Still on issues across borders, Over the horizon explores how more countries in Asia are being lured into offshore opportunities. Traditional offshore bargain hunters like China are being joined by the likes of South Korea, Vietnam and Australia establishing funds in favoured jurisdictions like the Cayman Islands. We compare the offshore destinations and look at regulatory updates worthy of note, and we also explore some offshore hotspots within Asia.

The final article in our three-part series on technology and its growing impact on the legal profession looks at the emergence of artificial intelligence and how it is resculpting the legal landscape. Legal begets AI looks at programs and products that are being adopted by the savviest law firms to enhance their services and stay ahead of the curve. Asia has its share of tech tigers who are reshaping their firms’ business models for the digital age. Find out which jurisdictions are leading the way and get some insights from the best tech consultants.

Finally, Speaking a common language examines the need for a universally accepted arbitration system in Asia with the Belt and Road initiative now a reality. This article looks at the types of disputes that are likely to occur, and the best strategies for dealing with them. With Asia’s firm reputation as a dispute resolution hub, the Belt and Road is the biggest challenge yet for both the region’s arbitration centres and individual law firms with expertise in this practice area.