London – The world’s litigation capital

The promotion of London as a centre for excellence when it comes to litigation, arbitration and mediation is long overdue; after all, ask people overseas what they most admire about this country and many will say our legal system and the quality of our judiciary.

And yet for some years now we have been reluctant to blow our own trumpet, even though we have recently refined and improved our civil procedure rules and are now doing the same to our system of costs recovery.

The Commercial Court, for example, has had a complete overhaul of its procedures, and its judges have now become much more actively involved in managing cases. This invariably reduces costs. Further improvements will also come when Lord Justice Jackson’s reforms on costs and funding have been introduced, not least because litigants will have a wider choice of ways to fund their cases.

As Lord Justice Jackson noted in his final report on costs, our Commercial Court now enjoys a formidable reputation for commercial dispute resolution. He pointed to recent research which shows that, in 80% of cases in the Commercial Court, one of the parties carried on business outside this jurisdiction and, in 52% of cases, both parties did. Thus a great many of the disputes handled by the Commercial Court involve overseas commercial parties who have chosen London as their forum.

As a result, the case for the promotion of London for the resolution of international disputes seems all the more compelling.

Some might say that all that we needed was court space that lived up to the reputation of our justice system. Now we have, in the Rolls building, a court house, where most international business disputes will be heard and which is modern, user-friendly and reflects the technological world in which we now live. 

The fact that it is only just around the corner from the great Victorian edifice that is the Royal Courts of Justice means that visitors can walk the halls of that great building and soak up tradition on the same day as they experience the modernity and convenience that international business properly expects when it has much at stake.  Indeed the new court is blessed by standing at the centre of a sea of excellence when it comes to lawyers, other professionals and experts of all description who have established themselves in this most international of business cities.

Recent research carried out by Queen Mary’s College London, in conjunction with White and Case, demonstrates that, when it comes to international arbitration, 40% of respondents used English law most frequently for their disputes and London was the most preferred and widely used seat of arbitration. London was nominated as the most popular seat by 30% of respondents – a long way ahead of Geneva, Paris and New York, which were only in single figures. 

Add to that our international reputation in the field of ADR, particularly mediation, and the case for London becomes overwhelming. 

Patrick Sherrington is head of the litigation, arbitration and employment practice of Hogan Lovells