The UK Government has set a course to market and grow London as an international dispute resolution centre, building on its prominence as a financial centre. However, increasingly it is having to compete with the likes of New York, Singapore and Hong Kong as hubs of legal expertise. Over the last few years there has been a rapid increase in the number of international cases in both the London courts and in arbitration. More international and commercial disputes take place in London under English law than in any city in the world and, according to a recent survey, 90% of commercial disputes handled by London law firms are now involve an international party. International corporates (most recently Russian and Eastern European) have used the London courts as their courts of choice because of a perceived guarantee of fairness and impartiality. Other attractive aspects of the English legal system for sophisticated corporates include its rules on disclosure of documents, without prejudice communication to facilitate settlement and a growing trend of alternative dispute resolution. One such case was the claim by the Russian Tycoon Boris Berezovsky against Roman Abramovich over the ownership of Sibneft (a claim on which one of our partners worked).
In terms of arbitration, London has been at the forefront of international arbitration for many years. The LCIA is London’s most preeminent international arbitration institution – it dates back to 1892. The UK is a pro-arbitration jurisdiction, for example because of the finality of arbitration awards with limited rights of appeal.
As of October 2014, new rules of procedure have been introduced by the LCIA in order to try to maintain London’s position in international arbitration. The aim of the rules is to improve efficiency in the light of competition, particularly from ICC and ICDR. The main changes include the following:-
1. New emergency arbitrator procedure. The emergency arbitrator can make “awards” enforceable under the New York Convention and the LCIA is now the only institution to provide for both expedited formation and emergency arbitrator appointment.
2. Rules to improve efficiency including:-
3. New conduct guidelines for the parties and their lawyers to include “good and equal conduct” by legal representatives. These guidelines should promote a level playing field for advocates who often come from diverse legal traditions and cultures.
It will be interesting to see how the new rules bed in but the early signs are positive. It is clear that the LCIA are keen to make their arbitrations as efficient as possible.