Questions as to the enduring dominance of London in the realm of commercial claims were raised in a recent article by the Law Society Gazette. It was reported that there has been a marked increase in the number of commercial cases which are being heard outside of the capital.
Year on year, the proportion of such cases heard in London has been decreasing from 79% in 2019/20 to 75% in 2020/21 to 72% this year. Despite this, the gulf of difference between the number of claims heard in London, 5,892, and that of the country’s second city, Manchester, 717, suggest that London will not relinquish its position of dominance any time soon.
From the perspective of foreign commercial litigants, this is a positive move which will unencumber London courts of domestic English cases to some degree. As such, even if London’s domestic dominance may be nominally declining, its international status as a leading global centre for the resolution of contentious matters remains strong.
If a company wishes to embark upon litigation, the advantages of doing so in England, in comparison to most other European jurisdictions, can, in certain cases, be significant. Clients bringing a case in London benefit from a legal infrastructure which has been optimized to deal with complex international commercial disputes.
This is owing, at least in part, to London’s long-held position as a world financial capital which has endured despite several challenges in the last two decades. The longevity of England’s legal tradition, its stability and strong rule of law ensure international litigants fair and impartial proceedings or at least a better chance of this than in many other jurisdictions.
Perhaps most fundamentally, many aspects of English law are inherently favourable to businesses wishing to enforce their rights. ‘Freedom of contract’ and other such concepts allow for much latitude to businesses in the drafting of their agreements, safe in the knowledge that should a dispute arise both parties will be bound to the terms of the agreement.
Clients may appreciate the relative anonymity of UK proceedings should they wish to avoid publicity in their own country. Such reasons explain England’s enduring attractiveness to foreign litigants; figures from 2020 the Commercial Courts in London heard cases involving parties form 72 countries. The presence of such institutions as the international court of arbitration, one of the most significant courts of its kind in the world, serves to further the city’s dominance in this area.
The concerted efforts of English judges such as Mrs. Justice Cockerill to find cases which can be heard outside the capital’s Rolls Building will no doubt lead to a decrease in the overburdening of London courts with cases which could otherwise be heard in other legal centers in the UK.
This practice is reinforced by practice direction 57AA, issued in 2018 for the Business and Property Courts, which stated that most claims with ‘significant links to a particular circuit outside London or the southeast should be issued in the most local district registry’. This direction has been used by judges when calls to move cases to the capital have been considered.
London therefore remains dominant internationally for good reason. Recent moves to dissipate the pressure of local claims to more regional courts and will serve to further enable London courts decide on larger international cases.
If you are considering bringing or defending an international commercial dispute, with the right lawyers, London remains an attractive place to do so. Preiskel & Co has a wealth of experience in international areas such as the establishment of jurisdiction in England and Wales, enforcement of foreign judgments and cross-border asset recovery which can help ensure the best possible chances of success in any such disputes.
The material contained in this article is only a general review of the topics covered and does not constitute any legal advice. No legal or business decision should be based on its content