Changes and Developments within International Arbitration Law

A conversation with a senior international arbitration specialist about the changes he’s seen over his career and the changes he believes are coming in the future.

Background:

As we find ourselves living in an increasingly globalised world, we have seen the field of international arbitration develop from a relatively niche specialism to becoming a core practice area; no longer the preserve of top tier firms in London & New York.

We are also seeing an increasing number of regional and boutique firms with their own international arbitration offering. There's also strong growth in regional centres in the Middle East & Asia, and whilst London & Paris may still hold the crown when it comes to favoured seats for international arbitration, centres in Dubai, Hong Kong & Singapore are increasingly attractive as locations to settle disputes.

Given the developments within arbitration, it makes sense that the type and the way practitioners work is changing too.

I had a conversation with a contact of mine (a senior international arbitration specialist at a top tier Law firm) to talk about the changes he’s seen over his career and the changes he believes are coming in the future.

How have you seen your practice evolve over recent years in terms of the type of work being requested?
My practice has gravitated towards investment treaty disputes and planning in the last 5 years & I am seeing a growing demand on the market for this type of expertise.

Is your clients’ use of technology changing their expectations of you as a lawyer
Almost all of my paper based reviews have been eliminated, although this has been an ongoing process for a long time.  There are certainly now digital copies of everything.

Do you feel that there is a shortage of skills in the market, in terms of law practitioners? Or do you feel that the current cohort of lawyers are sufficiently equipped to deal with upcoming trends?
There is actually a high supply of lawyers at the moment (potentially an oversupply of new qualified) which has provided fierce competition for arbitration lawyers who struggle to stand out from the crowd

Brexit related factors - How has the ongoing presence of Brexit affected the market for you? As things progress do you see the future landscape of the market being affected?
When it comes to international arbitration work, Brexit doesn’t seem to be a major issue nor will it necessarily become an issue in the future. Potential issues could arise depending on what the UK’s post Brexit immigration system looks like with firms being unable to hire top talent or the UK looking a less attractive destination for international lawyers.

Besides Brexit, what other events are on the horizon that could impact the market?
There is an oversupply at the junior end (there are lots of law students) as a result we don’t have enough training contracts to go around, the crowded market will end up restricting peoples job opportunities and this will be a problem for the younger generation

Do you see any technological developments on the horizon that may change the way dispute resolution work is handled?
AI is making its way into dispute resolution. Decision making will not be outsourced, but support functions will be performed through AI.

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November 8, 2019
George Collier
Written by George Collier