The launch of Legal Business’s debut Disputes Yearbook is just one of many signs of how dramatically the dynamics of the global law game have changed over the last decade. While our lead article, Martial Law, assesses whether the dramatic rise of the contentious lawyer has reached a post-Lehman plateau, there is no sign of litigation returning to the near backwater it was becoming at many City firms in the early 2000s.

It’s possible that a stabilising global economy will have an impact on this counter-cyclical business, but in truth pure crisis-related commercial disputes work has under-shot expectations and manifested with a greater time lag than many expected.

As such, many of the underlying factors strengthening the hand of contentious lawyers such as increasingly proactive regulation and enforcement, the rise of global arbitration in a multi-polar world and the relative patchiness of M&A and securities work show no signs of abating.

Glancing at the headline financials on the litigation teams at major commercial law firms, it’s obvious that it is now common for disputes teams to exceed firm-wide profitability by a good margin, probably in part because litigation teams rarely benefited from the over-investment seen in corporate practices at firms with delusions of M&A grandeur. Continue reading “Leader”

Disputes overview: Martial Law


The post-banking crisis boom in litigation has put disputes work back at the centre of global law. As the economy recovers, can it last?

Six years on from the financial crash and at least four years since many of the City’s leading litigation departments began giving their transactional counterparts a run for their money, one could be forgiven for wondering if doubts are creeping in over the sustainability of that progress.

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Perspectives: Simon Davis, Clifford Chance


When I was at school trying to figure out what to study at university, the school organised a series of individuals to give us a talk. They were all fine – from major multinationals and different industries – but none of them made me think: ‘Wow, this is what I want to do with my life.’ It wasn’t until a solicitor from Woking turned up – a specialist in criminal law – and he was hilarious. He was the only one who was enormously enjoying what he was doing. That was the first inkling that work could be enjoyable.

You wonder about becoming a solicitor or a barrister. I knew if I went the barrister route – which would have worked quite well since I like the sound of my own voice – if I failed as a barrister, I would be stony broke. If I failed as a solicitor, at least I could pay my expenses along the way. Also, the barrister profession can be quite a solitary existence compared to solicitors meeting clients. My personality led me to being a solicitor. I made the right choice. Continue reading “Perspectives: Simon Davis, Clifford Chance”

Perspectives: Jan Paulsson, Three Crowns


I didn’t start school until I was 13. I grew up in Liberia and it was wonderful growing up in the jungle because there were no schools! But my parents were increasingly nervous about how they were ‘mistreating’ their only son and told me I had to go to school. They had previously taken me to Sweden but having grown up in West Africa I didn’t care for Sweden’s winters very much. So they found some people in Los Angeles who would take me in, and I started in a public high school. Later, I would go to Harvard and Yale.

I started practising law in 1975 not having any idea of what I was doing. I began my career at Coudert Frères in Paris and like most people starting off, I didn’t know long I would do it, or whether I liked it, and whether Paris was the right city for me. I had no idea what practising law, or arbitration, was all about. My arrival coincided with a crisis for one of the clients in the firm – there was a dispute between the Libyan American Oil Company and the Libyan government. The concession agreement called for international arbitration under principles common to Libyan law and international law. I had studied international law at Yale and right off the bat the senior partner walks up the hall and asks if there was anybody who had studied it. That was the start – I never did anything else.

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Perspectives: Gary Born, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr


I grew up on a military base, I was an army brat in what was then West Germany, and they didn’t need lawyers; they had commanding officers and lieutenants.

I went to university in the US and happily studied history and religion. I thought being the professor was what I wanted to do. In my last year, my faculty announced a freeze on hiring and liberal arts education was in a bit of a crisis. So, with all other options ruled out, I decided to go to law school.

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Like clockwork



Why are so few awards rendered by the Swiss Chambers’ Arbitration Institution subject to challenge proceedings in the country’s courts? Rainer Füeg, the institution’s Executive Director, speaks to Lenz & Staehelin partner Martin Burkhardt

Martin Burkhardt, Lenz & Staehelin: With a growing number of arbitral institutions, why should a party use your institution?

Rainer Füeg, Swiss Chambers’ Arbitration Institution: Arbitration proceedings under the Swiss rules of international arbitration are efficient, reliable and cost-effective. They are administered in four languages: English, German, French and Italian. In arbitration proceedings where the amount in dispute does not exceed CHF1m, expedited procedures will apply; in such cases, the award shall be made within six months from the date on which the secretariat of the Institution submitted the file to the arbitral tribunal. More generally, the members of the institution and its arbitral tribunal are experienced international arbitration practitioners.

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Hong Kong Horizons



Armed with a new set of institutional rules, the HKIAC’s secretary general, Chiann Bao, discusses the importance of providing a flexible, cost-efficient approach to international arbitration with Quinn Emanuel’s John Rhie

‘Users have always appreciated the transparency and neutrality of our administration,’ says Chiann Bao, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC)’s secretary general, of the institution she has served for the past four-and-a-half years. Such assurances are timely, given the release in June by China’s State Council of a white paper demanding that judges in Hong Kong ‘love the country’. This is seen by some commentators as a threat to the judicial independence guaranteed by the ‘one country, two systems’ formula in place since the 1997 handover.

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The Movie Business



Freshfields’ head of international arbitration, Lucy Reed, talks to Singapore International Arbitration Centre chief executive, Lim Seok Hui, about the institution’s recent rise to prominence

Lucy Reed, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer: Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC)’s reputation in the market has skyrocketed in the last five years. What are some of the factors which have led to that growth?

Lim Seok Hui, SIAC: It was certainly no coincidence that the spike in new case numbers we have seen since 2008 corresponded with the entry onto the world stage of the Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese and Korean economies. That is of course a key factor in the growth of the institution. Underpinning and assisting that development is the fact that the government of Singapore was very quick to lay the infrastructure needed for the advancement of international commercial arbitration in our jurisdiction, and to adopt the necessary legislation to allow us to keep up to speed with global best practices. We also have a very supportive judiciary which built upon Singapore’s reputation for neutrality, integrity and quality more generally as regards our legal sector.

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Chinese walls?



Following a high-profile internal squabble, the CIETAC is going global. Yu Jianlong, the institution’s secretary general, tells Clyde & Co partner Patrick Zheng why Hong Kong was its first port of call

Patrick Zheng, Clyde & Co: With a growing number of arbitral institutions around the world, why should a party use the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC)?

Yu Jianlong, CIETAC: Founded in 1956, CIETAC is the oldest international arbitration institution in China. With more than half a century’s development, it is also among the busiest arbitral centres in the world. We recommend that a party uses CIETAC arbitration due to the fact that it offers a number of advantages. Firstly, the CIETAC rules are similar to those of all the major arbitration institutions, thereby offering parties the most autonomy possible. In addition, we have over 300 foreign arbitrators from more than 40 jurisdictions; in international or foreign-related cases, parties may agree on the nationality of the arbitrators. Secondly, CIETAC is independent of any government agencies in China, and CIETAC arbitrators do not represent any parties. Thirdly, most CIETAC cases are concluded within six months after the tribunal is constituted, meaning that our arbitration fees are relatively low compared to other major international arbitration institutions. Finally, CIETAC offers the unique combination of arbitration with mediation – a combination which not only resolves disputes, but also renews positive business and personal relations between parties.

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An attractive proposition



Manfred Heider, secretary general of VIAC, talks to Zeiler. Partners’ Gerold Zeiler about how recent changes to the institution’s rules will maintain its position as a key location for European disputes

Gerold Zeiler, zeiler.partners: With a growing number of arbitral institutions, why should a party use your institution?

Manfred Heider, Vienna International Arbitral Centre (VIAC): The VIAC is one of Europe’s leading arbitral institutions and serves as a focal point for the settlement of commercial disputes in the regional and international community. VIAC was founded in 1975 as a permanent arbitral institution of the Austrian federal economic chamber and has since then enjoyed a steadily increasing caseload from a diverse range of parties spanning Europe, the Americas and Asia. Situated in a neutral country in the heart of Europe, VIAC offers its services for the settlement of international disputes. The arbitral proceedings are individually designed according to the parties’ requirements and meet the highest quality criteria.

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