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United Kingdom > London > Dispute resolution > Overview

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Due to the expertise and independence of London’s courts and the quality of its law firms and barristers chambers, London remains a forum of choice within which to conduct disputes, particularly for parties entering into contracts in jurisdictions such as Russia, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Significant recent developments saw London’s disputing parties endure a considerable rise in court fees – fees for issuing claims increased to 5% of the claim’s value in March 2015, with a capped fee of £10,000. The market also experienced the development of certain proposals from Lord Justice Jackson’s landmark Review of Civil Litigation Costs, including a voluntary bill of costs pilot designed to support J-Codes, a system of job-based time recording codes. Potentially, such recording could lead to notable time and cost reductions when producing budgets, schedules and bills of costs.


Ronald Fletcher Baker

The promise of being professional, responsive and competitive is at the core of everything we do. This promise is never more important than when dealing with high value litigation where businesses or reputations are at stake. We have over 50 years experience in commercial litigation, including arbitration, intellectual property disputes, commercial fraud, international contractual and corporate disputes and matters involving regulatory investigations. The firm has been involved a number of leading cases in recent years including, the leading authority on director’s liability, a leading case on the effectiveness of retention of title clauses and a leading authority relating to implied terms into an option agreement. As a result, the firm is sought after by foreign governments, international corporate bodies, high net worth individuals and well known charities seeking the firm’s expertise in professional discipline.

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Tied to the question of costs, clients are increasingly recognising the merits of inviting third-party investors to fund their cases. Applying to such funders also affords claimants the opportunity to examine the actual strength of their cases’ merits in front of neutral third parties. Consequently, new funders continue to enter this market, with the upside for potential claimants being increased choice.

The Lord Chief Justice (Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd) launched the new Financial List in October 2015. Directed at cases worth £50m or more, this is a specialist court procedure for the most significant and complex financial markets claims of the day, and relies upon a panel of judges with expertise in the financial markets. The new financial court covers products such as derivatives and foreign exchange (FX) issues, as well as the commodities markets, and its first ever judgment was handed down in early 2016.

The ongoing fallout from the recent global financial turmoil continues to give rise to high levels of contractual disputes, while banking litigation remains one of the most significant areas of litigation. Several scandals have plagued a number of leading banks (and will continue to do so for some time to come) as the sector’s ethical values and corporate governance standards are routinely subjected to questioning. In particular, the headline LIBOR and FX rigging cases continue to provoke large-scale investigations and regulatory intervention, as well as the prosecution of former traders.

Furthermore, following the collapse in energy and commodity prices, other specific sectors producing high-stakes cases include energy and natural resources. High-value contractual disputes have arisen as certain parties look either to bring down their costs or exit burdensome agreements.

In international arbitration, across most industry sectors English law remains a go-to choice of governing law and London remains highly popular as a choice of venue. Many firms have also experienced a significant rise in the number of bilateral investment treaty (BIT) arbitrations and public international law specialists have been increasingly advising clients on their interactions with their governments, with a view to extending BIT protections to investors.

Notable legal market unions included Canada’s second-largest independent law firm, Gowlings, merging in 2016 with Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co to become Gowling WLG, and Irwin Mitchell and Thomas Eggar also joining forces, while in early 2016, Dentons took on the banking and finance litigation group of now defunct law firm Matthew Arnold & Baldwin.

Headline spinoffs involved the departure of specialist PIL firm Volterra Fietta’s former founding partner Stephen Fietta to establish Fietta, while recent London entrant US firm Jenner & Block LLP, which opened in London 2015, hired Charlie Lightfoot as partner from White & Case LLP to focus on litigation and international arbitration.

Other key moves include Winston & Strawn London LLP’s former co-head of international arbitration, Joe Tirado, joining Iberian firm Garrigues’ London office; Herbert Smith Freehills LLP losing PIL specialist Matthew Weiniger QC to Linklaters LLP; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP’s former disputes veteran Ian Terry exiting after 38 years for One Essex Court; DLA Piper’s former global international arbitration head Matthew Saunders joining Ashurst; and Herbert Smith Freehills LLP’s London litigation head Tim Parkes departing to become chairman of the UK Financial Conduct Authority’s regulatory decisions committee.

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Legal Developments in London for Overview

  • US rules regarding offshore accounts

    The Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act 2010, enacted on 18 March 2010, imposes a new US withholding tax and reporting regime, known as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). The FATCA regime applies generally to payments made after 31 December 2012, except on obligations (to be defined in future guidance) outstanding on 18 March 2012. Substantial effort is required by foreign entities to bring their worldwide operations and policies into compliance with the FATCA rules as of the effective date.

    - Jones Day

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