London is still the leading global disputes hub – for now

London is still the leading global disputes hub – for now

The English courts have long been the jurisdiction of choice for settling disputes. Coupled with the City’s reputation as an international financial hub, London has hosted some of the world’s largest and most complex commercial cases.

It seems that, at least for now, this trend is continuing.

Portland’s annual report on who uses the London Commercial Courts was published this week by our specialist Disputes Practice. It found that over 70% of litigants came from outside the UK – the most global group recorded since 2011-2012.

This international reputation translates into serious money. In 2015, the contribution legal services to the UK economy exceeded £25 billion.

Many in the sector, including Sir Geoffery Vos, the Chancellor of the High Courts, have recently extolled the “unbreakable strength” of the British legal system.

But how strong and stable is it really?

London arguably faces two challenges to its status as a global disputes resolution powerhouse.

The first, predictably, is Brexit. Our research shows that the number of European litigants has continued to stagnate, following a steady decline over the last five years.

Secondly, London faces increasingly stiff competition from overseas courts seeking a larger slice of the international disputes industry. For them, Brexit presents an opportunity.

Dubai and Singapore are making significant investments in their legal infrastructure – and how it is marketed around the world. Meanwhile closer to home, both France and The Netherlands have announced plans to establish English language courts to hear commercial disputes.

For now, London is still very much at the centre of the legal action. However an increasingly competitive field, coupled with the looming prospect of protracted Brexit negotiations, may result in global litigants choosing to take their cases elsewhere.

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