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UK aims to make London centre for dispute resolution

Editorial Staff

When Dubai wanted a model for its courts system for the (then) new financial centre, it chose that of the English legal system. Now the British government wants to capitalise on the standing and reputation of the UK Courts and ancillary services, including arbitration, and turn London into the world's leading "law tourism" centre.

When UK trade missions spread out around the globe, amongst their number will be an increasing number of lawyers, representing law firms and the legal industry.

The reputation of the English legal system is excellent, especially in developing countries where, to be polite, decisions in civil cases are often less about evidence than about influence.

Some 15 years ago, one of Indonesia's leading (state owned) insurance companies canvassed the idea of setting up an in-house English law firm at its head office in Jakarta. All contracts would be written under English law and all disputes decided in the English courts. It came to nothing but it demonstrated the dissatisfaction felt by many with the seeming impossibility of getting a fair trial.

Things have greatly improved: Indonesia's anti-corruption agency and its newly empowered financial intelligence unit have chased officials and judges and are giving no quarter where wrongdoing is found.

But Indonesia is not the only country where justice has been for sale - or at least haphazard.

English courts have a significantly higher reputation than those in, say, the USA where back door deals in criminal cases hit the headlines and where lawyers are widely seen (not always unfairly) as driven as much by profits and publicity as by a sense of justice. And while it is true to say that English lawyers are not immune to this, the split profession has militated against the worst practices.

The Government has launched its "Legal Services Action Plan" with the support of both barristers and solicitors. Importantly, the City of London has also joined in. Some will see this as somewhat ironic: the gates for the City of London are placed so that the famous "Palace of Justice" is just a few metres outside the City. But many of the world's top law firms are firmly within its borders.

Chris Cummings, CEO of TheCityUK (sponsored by the City of London), stated: "The UK's unrivalled expertise in dispute resolution continues to see London as the place the world's companies come for the definitive legal view on their issues. The Government's new action plan sets out a blueprint for maintaining that leading position, just as our globalised world means cross-border trade and the need for cross-border arbitration are at all time highs. I'm delighted that TheCityUK's Legal Services and Dispute Resolution Group [http://www.thecityuk.com/uk-fi... ] will play a central role in promoting the UK's expertise to a global audience."