GPC Hong Kong – A Mandate For Change

The Global Pound Conference event in Hong Kong saw over 200 delegates assemble to identify trends and cultural preferences in commercial dispute resolution. Hong Kong’s Secretary for Justice, Chief Justice and Solicitor General headlined the conference, underlining the government and judiciary’s high engagement with the initiative.

Hong Kong is a global financial centre and leading regional dispute resolution hub. It enjoys a strong, independent judiciary as well as world class international arbitration services. Mediation and other forms of ADR are heavily supported by a myriad of institutions. Although not a compulsory requirement, mediation in the context of civil litigation tends to be interpreted by commercial parties as a mandatory step. 

Against this backdrop, delegates voted at the GPC Hong Kong as follows:

  • When it comes to the choice of dispute resolution process, users and their advisors put far more store in their familiarity with the process and the outcome sought, rather than relationships, industry practice or saving costs.
  • Financial remedies are overwhelmingly the most important outcome for all involved in commercial dispute resolution. Preserving relationships or achieving action-based outcomes are far less significant.
  • The rule of law is seen as the most important factor in achieving dispute resolution outcomes, ahead of consensus.
GPC Hong Kong infographic

Click here to download the full infographic summarising the Hong Kong data 

Herbert Smith Freehills‘ (HSF) Greater China Managing Partner, Julian Copeman, who moderated the Hong Kong event, noted that some voting trends differed from other GPC events, particularly the one in Singapore. For example, when weighing up the benefits of financial outcomes and preserving relationships, all stakeholders viewed financial outcomes as far more important.

Does this translate to a vote for ‘business as usual’ processes like litigation and arbitration in the territory? Is Hong Kong an unsophisticated jurisdiction lacking confidence in less adversarial process options? It is not as simple as that:

  • While delegates voted for familiarity and financial outcomes governed by the rule of law, users said efficient processes driven by collaboration were also key.
  • Add to this a preference for combining adjudicative and non-adjudicative processes, and we are looking at a more sophisticated user profile.
  • Perhaps most interestingly, users saw mediation primarily as a way of gaining better information about the case, rather than a cost-saving device. This suggests a degree of high sophistication – seeing ADR as a means of gaining intelligence and honing the issues for future settlement.

Clients want their advisors to collaborate with them, they don’t necessarily want lawyers to be advocates in the traditional sense. Instead, lawyers need to think more about combining processes, rather than aiming for a binary decision between