The new head of City of London Law Society (CLLS) has vowed to uphold the English ‘brand’, already so prominent throughout the world. Alasdair Douglas has been confirmed as the new CLLS chair, representing law firms that employ 14,000 solicitors and have an annual turnover of £12bn. The City firms face a number of challenges in the coming months, not least the fallout from changes to the legal market as practices are invited to become alternative business structures. Douglas, a former senior partner at Travers Smith, said few City firms will float or take in new capital to begin with, but this will change over time. ‘We’ll see unexpected new entrants backed by outside capital,’ he predicted. ‘How long before significant change happens is anyone’s guess. ‘The challenge will be to ensure that the brand – English solicitors – continues to be valued here and abroad and is not devalued as ownership is spread more widely.’ The job of defending London’s international success is both timely and essential. Three-quarters of claims brought in the English Commercial Court involve overseas parties, while one recent survey found that in international arbitration, respondents used English law more than New York, Swiss and French law combined. Douglas warned that there is a real threat to that pre-eminence if the EU Commission pushes ahead with plans for a competing EU legal system for contract law. ‘Imposing a new system would drive legal and related business away from London to New York, or perhaps Switzerland. ‘Major international transactions and dispute resolution need legal certainty most of all, and a decade of uncertainty as new law settles down is not something that anyone would choose.’ He added: ‘More than 50% of cross-border deals around Europe are now done using English law and my sense is that the same is true in Asia. ‘Common law gives flexibility and certainty and we compete with New York to be the market standard for international business deals. ‘I am keen that we are the number one choice of law in the international market.’ Douglas’ arrival comes at a period of significant change at the City of London Law Society. David McIntosh has stood down after seven years as chair, with David Hobart recruited in a new role of chief executive from the Bar Council to work alongside the new chair.