Will London remain a leader in international arbitration?
If you walk around London's Rolls Building on any working day, you will meet Russian lawyers, Romanian lawyers, Italian businesspeople and dozens of international litigants from around the world.
London has developed into a pre-eminent international dispute resolution centre, with businesses and billionaires alike settling their arguments in the city's courtrooms. Research seen by Legal English UK indicates that around half of the claims heard in the top commercial courts involved cases where both parties were from outside the UK.
Global businesses have a choice on where to resolve their legal disputes. They choose the UK for a number of reasons: the clarity and predictability of English law, the use of Legal English, the UK’s independent and expert judiciary, and the efficient functioning of UK courts.
However, with courts around the world in cities such as Dubai, Dublin and Paris competing in the area of international dispute resolution, London-based commercial lawyers are increasingly worried that the city will lose out due to the "huge dollop (bit) of uncertainty" that Brexit adds into the system, according to Law Society vice-chair and Clifford Chance partner Simon Davis.
Legal English UK Executive Trainer Michael Davies states that pan-European organisations are comfortable initiating legal proceedings in the UK because most EU states will enforce judgment from a UK court. "If Brexit happens, that will create tremendous problems."
In a speech last week at the offices of law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, Justice Secretary David Gauke said he hoped for an “ambitious, broad, deep and mutually beneficial future relationship across trade and economic cooperation, law enforcement and criminal justice, foreign and security policy and wider areas of cooperation”.
Lawyers from firms such as Norton Rose and Swiss law firm Lalive, which is opening a new London office in the expectation that more internation arbitration cases will be coming to the UK, are more optimistic. Marc Veit, a partner of the firm said: “London’s attractiveness may even increase after the UK has left the EU as it may be perceived as a more neutral venue as is the case with Switzerland outside the EU.”
Many lawyers are still worried about what the future holds, particularly when politicians seemingly have no idea of what happens next.
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