Commercial Litigation or International Arbitration – which area would suit you best?

By RedLaw | 11 Apr, 2018


Michael Madigan, RedLaw Consultant, takes a look at these two areas and lays out the pro’s and con’s of both in his latest blog.


As a Consultant that has worked with a wide range of commercial litigation and international arbitration associates (and sometimes those with mixed practices), I have had the opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding as how the two areas differ in nature and what associates enjoy about practising in each area.

The purpose of this piece is to highlight some of the more ‘softer’ aspects of commercial litigation and international arbitration that associates should consider when deciding which area to qualify into at the junior level or, if at a more senior level, which area to specialise and build their practice in.

Travel opportunities – do you like to travel frequently or are you more of a homebody? Typically, international arbitration associates will have the opportunity to travel more so than commercial litigation associates. Commercial litigation takes places in the English Courts, whereas arbitrations can take place across a range of countries depending the seat of the arbitration and governing law.

Confidentiality – do you want to work on headline making cases? If you want the disputes you work on to be covered in the legal press and (although less frequently) national press, then commercial litigation is the better route for you. Arbitrations are confidential in nature and, therefore, the press cannot report on what they are not aware of (although speculation can be rife).

Flexibility – are you a stickler for process or do you adopt more of a laissez faire attitude? As commercial litigation associates are fully aware, litigation under the English courts must be conducted under the Civil Procedure Rules. However, arbitrations are usually more informal in nature and the parties can dictate not only the process, but also select the arbitrators and decide how many there will be. Arbitrations are still governed by a particular set of arbitral rules but there is more flexibility in the process.

Languages – are you multilingual? Arbitration associates often speak a range of languages and, frequently but not always the case, their caseload will correlate with their language skills. Arbitration gives parties the opportunity to make a decision regarding what language an arbitration is conducted in. High Court Litigation is conducted in English and, where foreign expert witnesses are required, professional legal translators are often employed to ensure the process runs smoothly at trial.

The above is very much a short, sharp, whistle-stop tour of the more general aspects of what practicing in each area can provide. I have advised countless litigation/arbitration lawyers seeking to understand their place in the market, opportunities that may exist and have placed lawyers throughout the litigation spectrum: from working with global dominant firms to litigation and arbitration focused boutiques.

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