Has London retained its litigation crown?
In an article for Law.com, James Morgan QC and John McElroy consider whether London can retain its crown as a first-class litigation centre for international litigants, notwithstanding the turbulent years post-Brexit and post-Pandemic.
They argue that London has long been the forum of choice for international litigants and not just because the UK was an EU member. Access to the quality and independence of the judiciary; the legal expertise from law firms and barristers; and the flexibility and predictability of English common law remain big draws. Arbitration continues to have an important place in London’s legal landscape, particularly when it comes to enforcing judgments in other European countries and New York Convention signatory states.
As early as 2018, the UK court system started to digitise its services and moved online rapidly when Covid struck, and the High Court and Appeal Court business largely continued as pre-Pandemic - albeit electronically.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 allowed the courts to use video and audio links across a wide range of hearings. Demonstrating their flexibility and creativity, the courts of England & Wales avoided the backlog seen in many other jurisdictions. Ironically, the principle of open justice was at its height during the pandemic, with courts and judicial proceedings being the most accessible they have ever been.
Recently, specialist courts issued new court guides. An updated Commercial Court Guide reimposes clear boundaries on areas where the rules have not always been followed to the letter. For example, pleadings must be confined to primary allegations and PD57AC must now be followed so parties do not use witness statements to argue the case. Alternative Dispute Resolution has been renamed “Negotiated Dispute Resolution” indicating that settlement outside of Court should always be considered. The new Chancery Guide provides up-to-date guidance on electronic bundles and remote hearings.
London courts’ readiness to open the jurisdiction to victims of foreign disasters and consumer victims of competition infringements through its support for collective actions will ensure that London remains an enduring destination of choice for litigants, notwithstanding the political or financial storms which continue to trouble the world.
James Morgan QC is with Radcliffe Chambers and John McElroy is on the executive committee of the London Solicitors Litigation Association and Head of Commercial Disputes at Hausfeld.