Skip to content

Global Law Intelligence Unit

06 February 2015

The Global Law Intelligence Unit is a faculty of expert Allen & Overy lawyers dedicated to cross-border law and to helping solve the puzzles of multi-jurisdictional law.

Latest publications:

Find out more:

What is global law intelligence?

The Intelligence Unit has an executive team expert in comparative law, backed by an elite group of international lawyers as members of the Unit.

The Intelligence Unit draws on the capability of the firm’s 2,500 lawyers – one of the largest and most potent assemblies of lawyers the world has ever seen. It also draws on a network of some of the most outstanding law firms around the globe.

Many businesses in the world are international with operations in many jurisdictions. These businesses require a law firm that can deliver global law intelligence.

There are four fundamental contemporary forces which drive the impulse behind the Intelligence Unit. These are (1) the multitude of jurisdictions, (2) the volatile rapidity of world-wide legal change, (3) the fragmentation of the law internationally, and (4) the growth of GDP and capital.

All these factors increase legal complication and risk

1. Multitude of jurisdictions

There are around 194 nation states. East Timor, Montenegro and Kosovo are the latest, with others waiting in the wings. These nations are divided into around 320 separate jurisdictions with their own laws.

Now, nearly all the jurisdictions of the world participate in the world economy, including emerging countries, for example Angola, Kazakhstan, Ghana.

The process has been popularised as globalisation. The world is interlocked. Yet the law is frustratingly local.

View the map - Multitude of jurisdictions

2. Rate of legal change

Both the volatility and the complication of law have accelerated in the recent past. The map opposite shows jurisdictions which have recently made major changes to their insolvency laws – practically everyone.

The pattern is repeated in other areas, for example corporate and regulatory law.

View the map - Rate of legal change

3. Fragmentation of the law

The law is splintering and fragmenting, like a stone hitting a windscreen. At the same time, much of the law is inaccessible in many jurisdictions.

Not only is the law fissuring internationally, it is also breaking up into layers domestically: rocks under pressure.

View the table - Fragmentation of the law

4. Growth of GDP and risk

Notwithstanding set-backs, in past decades there has been an astonishing growth in GDP. Over the next 20 years, some economists have forecasted a near doubling of GDP compared to the year 2000. If that is so, there will be much more capital sloshing around in banks, in capital markets and in corporates – more prosperity but also more legal risk.

View the map - Growth of GDP and risk

What the GLIU does

  • Track the trends in global law and market practice
  • Fast generic international legal data for cross-border transactions
  • Designing advanced techniques to deliver detailed international legal data
  • Robust leadership on the policies of international legal systems
  • Getting on top of cross-border legal risks
  • Reform by governments of out-of-date legal systems
  • Designing international databases and data arrays
  • Cross-border expert opinions
  • Specialist seminars and high-level briefings

Executive of the Intelligence Unit

The Intelligence Unit is headed by Philip R. Wood QC (Hon) BA (Cape Town), MA (Oxon), LLD (Lund, Hon) and triple prize-winner in his Law Society qualifying exams. He is Special Global Counsel, Allen & Overy LLP; Visiting Professor in International Financial Law, University of Oxford; Yorke Distinguished Visiting Fellow, University of Cambridge; Visiting Professor, Queen Mary College, University of London; and Visiting Professor, London School of Economics & Political Science. Philip Wood is one of the world’s leading experts in comparative and cross-border law and has written around 18 books, including nine volumes in the series Law and Practice of International Finance. He was for 10 years head of the firm’s banking department and is an experienced transactional lawyer.

Melissa Hunt is personal assistant to the executive and administrator of the Intelligence Unit. She can be contacted at, +44 (0)20 3088 2750

Members of the Global Law Intelligence Unit

The members of the Intelligence Unit are an elite group of leading cross-border lawyers with multi-jurisdictional practical experience and specialising in cross-border law and transactions. They are assisted by a team of associate members.

All of these members and associate members are available to deal with enquiries from clients and others. They will, if an enquiry is not within their own field of expertise, direct the enquiry to the most appropriate experts.

Peter Bienenstock
+32 (0)2 780 24 00 

Paul Crook
+44 (0)20 3088 3101

Richard Evans
+44 (0)20 3088 3194

Elizabeth Leckie
+1 212 610 6317

Jennifer Marshall
+44 (0)20 3088 4743

Will McAuliffe
+852 (0)2974 7119

Chris Moore
+65 (0)6435 7480

Ed Murray
+44 (0)20 3088 1837

Philip Smith
+44 (0)20 3088 2765

Bob Penn
+44 (0)20 3088 2582