The London commercial courts enjoyed a record number of cases in 2018-19 with 78 countries choosing to use London for dispute resolution.  The Portland, which produces an annual report arising from its analysis of judgments from the London commercial courts, reveals that there was an overall increase of 63 per cent in the number of cases heard with 60 per cent of the litigants coming from overseas.  European litigants have surged over the past year and a significantly increased number from Russia, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine have become more prominent in the English courts; no doubt due to the spotlight the UK government has been shining on the oligarchs and billionaires living in London and the question of their unexplained wealth.

White collar crime features highly, perhaps, in part, driven by the Criminal Finances Act 2017, with a 45 per cent increase in civil fraud, being the third most common type of litigation just behind commercial contractual disputes and arbitration challenges.

Despite the popularity of the London courts, there are still a considerable number of potential litigants who seek to settle a dispute by other less expensive and quicker means.  Whilst the London court system is far more rapid than that of other countries where cases can be in the court system for many years, access to the alternative routes to settlement is considerably faster than queueing in the court system.  Both arbitration and mediation are viewed as credible alternatives court litigation.  

Mediation increasingly forms part of a multi-tiered dispute-resolution process and is often employed before resorting to international arbitration. Mediation allows the parties to retain a degree of control of the outcome of the dispute, enables them to create commercial business solutions that suit all parties and an outcome may be reached which enables the continuation of the business relationship.

Arbitration proceedings are more formal and can have legal weight. Similarly to mediation, arbitration can allow the parties in a dispute to discuss and deal with the matter through the use of impartial third parties.  The Arbitration Act 1996 governs the proceedings and there are many mandatory provisions, it is, therefore, a more robust form of dispute resolution and all arbitration agreements should be properly documented and witnessed.  Arbitrations can be challenged in certain circumstances and such challenges increased in the London courts in 2018-19 by 56 per cent; with banking, financial services and insurance matters leading the way.

If any business or individual finds themselves facing a legal dispute it is not a welcome situation regardless of which side of the dispute you are on.  For businesses, apart from the obvious legal costs, potential for adverse publicity and the disruption caused, the resulting loss of revenue when key employees having to appear as witnesses who may have to sit on a bench outside the courtroom for several days before being called is often overlooked; whereas the alternative routes to dispute resolution score highly for saving time and money. It is strongly recommended that when embarking on mediation or arbitration an expert in dispute resolution should be by your side to ensure that you obtain the best solution possible.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.