For years seasoned practitioners have bemoaned the lack of top-notch arbitration facilities in London, casting an envious eye at the polished offerings in rival hubs like Singapore, even as the City has boomed as a global centre for dispute resolution. Now advisers sick of arguing about venues and decamping to hotels for major disputes are about to have their wishes granted with the launch this week of a world-class arbitration centre from Legalease.
Following more than two years of development – including extensive consultation with senior arbitrators to refine its bespoke design – the new International Arbitration Centre (IAC) covers four floors at 190 Fleet Street, right in the heart of London’s legal community.
Including the highest-spec communications technology and facilities, the IAC has been designed specifically to cater to high-end disputes, offering 5,000 square feet of hearing space per floor. Confidentiality has been fundamentally built into the IAC’s design, allowing parties access through private lifts and via an underground car park.
Hearing spaces are backed by top-class facilities allowing for the privacy and comfort of the users, with each party having their own breakout suite and lounge, with their own printing and conferencing facilities, full Wi-Fi coverage and a fully-stocked pantry.
The IAC is headed by chief executive Owen Lawrence, who was recruited after a 20-year career at The Bar, most recently at 39 Essex Chambers. Lawrence is backed by experienced staff and high-end catering services. The IAC also comprises a tailored, flexible-working space for select members and event facilities, the top floor including a terrace taking in London’s skyline.
Kieron O’Callaghan, partner at Hogan Lovells, commented: ‘Although there are already some well-established arbitral venues in London, this new state-of-the-art facility will prove very popular for the right type of high-end case. It’s a welcome addition to the arbitration infrastructure in London.’
International Arbitration Centre chief executive Owen Lawrence on the new facility:
We have covered every angle to create a comfortable and smooth process, right down to the details that often go overlooked, such as having the facilities to store papers securely prior to the hearing. Each party and the arbitrators have their own washrooms, with amenities likened to First Class airport lounges. We hired staff from, for example, the Mandarin Oriental, whose emphasis on client service is globally recognised. The IAC has been built for the client and the rest has followed.
What were you trying to achieve with the focus on confidentiality?
It is important to clients, and it’s all about putting yourself in the client’s shoes. Confidentiality is so central to our beliefs that we have built a private driver drop off. From the drop off, you are taken directly to your hearing floor. Once there, nobody other than those in that dispute will know you’ve arrived. Our staff can, if desired, operate by a case reference number. Obviously, we know which law firms are coming in, but we don’t need to know who the clients are. We wanted to create something that would reintroduce privacy and confidentiality into disputes. The IAC provides this as its core offering.
What are the facilities like?
There is no comparison [with other venues] to our large hearing rooms. The breakout suite for each party, which comprises three rooms and a lounge, can be used as an extension to law firms based locally, or as a satellite office for those based overseas. You have your own printing facilities, conferencing facilities and Wi-Fi network, space for extensive trial bundles, and your own pantry and stocked drinks fridge. The floors are completely secure and accessed by swipe access card only. If you look at the footprint of our large hearing rooms – you have 5,000 square feet of hearing space and each party has an extensive private breakout area, essential for disputes dealing with sensitive matters. Our aim is to create a centre for arbitration that is likened to appearing at the Supreme Court. One of my favourite quotes from a potential client so far is: ‘People imagine law to be like it is portrayed on TV… a hearing here will make it like it’s on TV.’
The IAC is holding a launch party on the evening of 7 March for clerks and business development staff. If you are interested in attending, please email operations manager Rachel Bidmead on firstname.lastname@example.org or click here for the PDF invite.
For more on the International Arbitration Centre, click here