Professor Joseph J. Norton is James L Walsh Distinguished Faculty Fellow and Professor of Financial Institutions Law at the Southern Methodist University (United States). He co-founded the Asian Institute of International Financial Law in 1999. Prof. Norton talks about the beginnings of AIIFL in this Zoom session recorded on 14 May 2021 – approximately 14 minutes.

The University of Hong Kong was established in 1911, and the Department of Law was formed in 1969, with four teachers and forty students. On 1 July 1984, the Faculty of Law was created, comprising the Department of Law and the Department of Professional Legal Education. The Department of Law has responsibility for the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and legal education components of undergraduate mixed degree programmes including the BBA(Law) and BA(Government and Law). The Department of Professional Legal Education is responsible for the Postgraduate Certificate in Laws (PCLL), a one-year course of practice-oriented instruction which is a prerequisite to legal qualification in Hong Kong. Both departments contribute to postgraduate coursework programmes including a variety of LLM and Postgraduate Diploma programmes. The Faculty of Law also offers the research degrees of PhD, MPhil and SJD. At present, the Faculty has approximately 100 staff and at any given time over 1,800 students.

Professor Albert Chen is the Cheng Chan Lan Yue Professor in Constitutional Law at the Faculty of Law, the University of Hong Kong. He was the dean of the law faculty when AIIFL was established in 1999.

Reflecting Hong Kong’s position as perhaps the leading international commercial and financial centre in Asia, commercial, corporate and financial law has long been one of the main areas of strength of the Faculty of Law and has been selected as one of the Faculty’s six areas of strategic development. To support development of commercial, corporate and financial law expertise, in 1998 HKU awarded the Faculty a Distinguished Visiting Professorship, which was taken up from January 1999 to June 2000 by Professor Joseph J. Norton, then Sir John Lubbock Professor of Banking Law at the University of London and James L. Walsh Distinguished Faculty Fellow in Financial Institutions Law and Professor of Law at the Dedman School of Law, Southern Methodist University.

During his tenure at HKU, Professor Norton, along with Professor Say Goo and other colleagues working in the area of commercial, corporate and financial law, led the establishment of both AIIFL and the Master of Laws in Corporate and Financial Law “the LLM(CFL)” at the Faculty of Law in July 1999. AIIFL was established to assist the Faculty of Law in developing a partnership with other units at HKU and with the local business and financial communities for establishing a leading Asian academic centre in the area of international commercial, corporate and financial law.

Professor S H Goo is widely published particularly in the areas of Land and Conveyancing and Corporate and Insolvency Law. He has taught many subjects including Contract Law, Land Law, Company Law, Insolvency Law and Trust, and Corporate Governance. He is the founding director of AIIFL and founding director of the Master of Laws in Corporate Financial Law Programme.

Professor Norton and Professor Say Goo were named founding executive directors of AIIFL and Professor Goo was named founding director of the LLM(CFL). Professor Charles Booth was appointed director of AIIFL from December 2000 to December 2005. Professor Douglas Arner was appointed director of the LLM(CFL) in July 2002 and served as AIIFL director from January 2006 to June 2011. Professor Say Goo was director from July 2011 to June 2015. Associate Professor Gary Meggitt was director from July 2015 to June 2019. Professor Douglas Arner was director from July 2019 to June 2021. Our current director is Dr Emily Lee.

Professor Douglas W Arner specialises in economic and financial law, regulation and development. He is author, co-author or editor of eighteen books, including The RegTech Book (Wiley 2019), Reconceptualising Global Finance and its Regulation (Cambridge 2016), Financial Markets in Hong Kong: Law and Practice (Oxford, 2d ed., 2016), Finance in Asia: Institutions, Regulation and Policy (Routledge 2013), From Crisis to Crisis: The Global Financial Crisis and Regulatory Failure (Kluwer 2011) and Financial Stability, Economic Growth and the Role of Law (Cambridge 2007), and the author or co-author of more than 150 articles, chapters and reports on related subjects. His recent papers are available at SSRN where he is among the top 60 authors in the world by downloads.

AIIFL objectives

In light of Hong Kong’s role as a leading international commercial and financial centre in Asia, the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong established the Asian Institute of International Financial Law (AIIFL) in 1999 to serve as the focal point for expertise, education and research in commercial, corporate and financial law at HKU.  Since its inception, the Institute’s activities have steadily grown in scope, and AIIFL has gained recognition, both locally and internationally, as a leading Asian academic centre in international financial law and regulation.  AIIFL’s primary objective is to:

  • Enhance the development of the Faculty’s and the University’s expertise in commercial, corporate and financial law;
  • Share knowledge with and engage the wider community in commercial, corporate and financial law matters through educational initiatives and events; and
  • Support the development of economic and financial law and policy in the region, and thereby economic development, especially in China and Asia, through relevant research and public service.

AIIFL pursues institutional collaboration in research and conference activities in four primary areas:

  • financial institutions and markets focusing on the intersection of finance, technology and regulation
  • corporate, commercial, trade and economic law
  • corporate insolvency and restructuring, and
  • competition / antitrust

These areas reflect the strategic, research and educational directions as reflected in the LLM in Corporate and Financial Law and the LLM in Compliance and Regulation, together with the undergraduate teaching, expertise, and market and academic interests.

Key dates

In 1998, Meetings with stakeholders

In 1999-2000, Professor Joseph Norton served as Distinguished Visiting Professor.

In 1999-2000, Douglas Arner served as Assistant Professor.

In 1999, AIIFL and the LLM in Corporate and Financial Law were established.

In 1999-2000, Professor Joseph Norton and Say Goo were the first AIIFL Directors.

In 2001-2005, Charles Booth served as AIIFL Director.

In 2001-2003, Paul Hastings (formerly Koo and Partner) donated HK$1.5M to AIIFL for the Paul Hastings Visiting Professorship in Corporate and Financial Law.  19 Paul Hastings Visiting Professors presented the Paul Hastings Visiting Professorship Public Lectures from 2002-2010.

In 2001-2002, the China WTO: Trade Law & Policy Public Lecture Series was organised in cooperation with the HKU Institute for China and Global Development and the Institute of European Studies in Macau. The lectures were timed to coincide with China’s accession to the WTO and provided delegates with knowledge of WTO jurisprudence and the latest developments regarding China’s WTO accession. Attendance totalled 240 attendees for the 11 lectures.

In 2002-2003, the East Asian International Economic Law & Policy (EAIEL) Programme was established.

In 2002, the Dibb Lupton Alsop (DLA) AIIFL Student Research Fellowship was established to support students to carry out offshore legal research. In 2018, the Fellowship was turned into the “DLA Piper Enrichment Scholarship” to support AIIFL student fellows to take part in offshore academic conferences.

In 2005, the University of Hong Kong selected the AIIFL research theme “Constitutional, Corporate and Financial Law and Policy” to receive developmental support and to form a multidisciplinary collaboration. This role was reinforced when AIIFL was appointed as the research centre for Corporate, Commercial and Financial law under the 2008 strategic theme “Law, Policy and Development”.

In 2006-2011, Douglas Arner served as AIIFL Director.

In 2006, the Insurance Law Research Programme was established.

In 2007, the first review of AIIFL

In late 2007, the Taxation Law Research Programme (TLRP) was established.

In 2008, the Philip Smart Memorial Fund was established at the Faculty of Law for the late Professor Philip Smart (AIIFL Deputy Director and Fellow).  The Professor Philip St. John Smart Inaugural Memorial Lecture was held in November 2012 organised by AIIFL.

In 2011-2015, Say Goo served as AIIFL Director.

In 2012, the Hong Kong University Grants Committee approved a substantial multi-disciplinary Research project, proposed by AIIFL and affiliated research centres, on “Enhancing Hong Kong’s Future as a Leading International Financial Centre”.  The project fund was HK$15M.

In 2014, The Real Estate Law and Finance Research Programme was established.

In 2015, the Companies Registry (Hong Kong) committed to donate a total of HK$500,000 to support the AIIFL-Companies Registry Corporate Law and Governance Distinguished Lecture Series.

In 2015-2019, Gary Meggitt served as AIIFL Director.

In 2015, the One-Belt-One-Road Research Programme was established.

In 2016, the LLM in Compliance and Regulation was established.

In 2016-2017, in response to the rapid development of what the compliance task involves, a Series of Compliance Public Lectures was jointly hosted by AIIFL and the Hong Kong Securities and Investment Institute.

From 2017 to 2020, AIIFL assisted the University to organise the HKU FinTech Day to share the works in FinTech and announced the launch of new HKU undergraduate programmes, online courses on Introduction to FinTech and FinTech Professional Certificate Program. 

In 2018, the second review of AIIFL

In 2018, the Law Innovation Technology & Entrepreneurship (LITE) Programme was established.  LITE combines research, teaching experiential learning and Knowledge Exchange.

From 2018, AIIFL has taken a leading role to organise the Asia’s 1st FinTech Massive Open Online Course: HKU-edX Introduction to FinTech.  The course has over 90,000 learners drawn from across the world.

In 2019, the Consumer Law and Policy Research Programme was established.

In 2019-2021, Professor Douglas Arner serves as AIIFL Director.

In July 2021, Dr Emily Lee assumes the role as Director of AIIFL.