Why Is London A Global Capital For International Arbitration?

Friday, 20th March 2015

London’s reputation as a world financial capital has remained steadfast throughout the financial downturn. Complementing its image as powerhouse of finance is its equally strong reputation as an international legal hub.

This is demonstrated by the fact that more than half of the world’s leading law firms have their headquarters in London. One area that it particularly excels in is international arbitration due to historical factors and also the range of legal and judicial expertise available within such a compact geographical area.

Attractiveness of English law and its common law traditions

Hosting international arbitration in London is attractive to individuals and businesses because of both the nature of English law and its common law traditions.

A specific element that has particular appeal to businesses is the general importance attached under English law to the principle of freedom to contract. Furthermore, arbitration in London is chosen by many parties because of the confidentiality advantages that are provided. This is particularly important for those that do not, for reasons of commercial sensitivity, desire a public court trial in their home state. Commensurate with that sensitivity, English Law in general attaches importance to the confidentiality of attempts to settle arbitration claims.

Ultimately, the longevity of English legal traditions and the principles developed from them mean that parties seeking arbitration are drawn towards London as a forum because it is perceived as experienced and neutral.

Expertise in international matters

A further key advantage of arbitrating in London is the experience of many legal professionals and arbitral bodies in dealing with international matters. This has developed particularly from the fact that England, and London, has been a centre for international trade for many centuries.

The UK is a party to the New York Convention 1958 and this assists the enforcement in the 140 other contracting states of arbitration decisions made in London. This global appeal is illustrated by the fact that the International Chamber of Commerce Court of Arbitration has presided over some 17,000 cases from 180 countries and that  in 2014 the London Court of International Arbitration dealt in cases where 80 per cent of the parties were non-UK parties.

Advantages of London

London has lawyers, courts, arbitrators and arbitration forums of the highest quality. Its international expertise extends to having specialist arbitrators in fields as diverse as maritime disputes, engineering, finance, shipping and intellectual property. Furthermore, the Arbitration Act of 1996 applies to arbitration in the UK but the various arbitration bodies are allowed to have their own sets of rules.

The London Maritime Arbitrators Association (LMAA) for example provides a number of different arbitration mechanisms demonstrating that, not only do parties have a range of specialist arbitrators, but also a range of mechanisms available based on their specific needs. The LMAA handled nearly 3,000 cases in 2013 and made about 700 awards.

In addition to its general attraction as a place for arbitration, London’s long-established legal sector means it also has extensive qualities embedded in its legal culture. International clients can find a huge variety of law firms located in the city, from large multi-national firms to niche specialist firms.

Comment

London is one of the most important global hubs for international arbitration. A combination of history, a strong rule of law, international experience and expertise in a wide variety of industries means London is an excellent forum for individuals and businesses around the world to resolve disputes and engage lawyers for their depth of expertise. London continues to receive stiff competition from New York, Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong yet the advantages of English law with its domestic traditions and international capabilities make it an excellent destination for parties to resolve matters by way of arbitration.

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Antony Lee

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