This is my first blog post. I hope to present occasional observations that connect events and opportunities in the world of dispute resolution, international and domestic to the U.S. as I see them from what I have often described as my state of professional schizophrenia. My active involvement in the trial bar and arbitration world, including my simultaneous service on the boards of leading trial bar organizations such as the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and the American Board of Trial Advocates and the board of the American Arbitration Association reflect my commitment both to civil justice systems and to the many alternatives to those civil justice systems. Internationally, I am most comfortable among those members of the independent referral bar (barristers and advocates) who move easily between courts and arbitral forums.
I will try to provide some unlikely observations about the future of dispute resolution from my perspective as a certified…or at least certifiable…schizophrenic.
My first random connection is the potentially bright future of arbitration and mediation among the bars of London, Belfast, Dublin and Edinburgh. I have followed…or perhaps more accurately, attempted to follow…the Brexit negotiations and particularly the border issues between Ireland and the northern counties. I watched “The Journey” on New Year’s Eve and could not avoid the observation that Belfast, with a bit of luck, could become the Hong Kong of the 21st Century and in the process the independent referral bars of England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland could have additional opportunities to become predominant forces in the world of international arbitration.
As most people know, the “border” between Ireland’s southern counties and the northern counties that comprise Northern Ireland is open pursuant to a series of treaties and agreements initiated by the Good Friday Accord. Although tensions remain, the open border and the right of all citizens of the northern counties to enjoy dual citizenship – Irish and UK – has been honored for more than two decades. During that same time, barristers from the Irish Bar and the Northern Irish Bar who are fellows of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers or who have been delegates to the IATL Irish Program, are routinely called to the respective bars. The relationship between those bars continues to improve.
Much has recently been written about the concerns a “hard” Brexit might have on the reputation of London as a world center for financial and professional services. UK barristers are generally granted privileges at the bar in Northern Ireland, a much smaller and more close-knit bar than London enjoys. In the past, Belfast has not enjoyed a sophisticated commercial dispute resolution community and has very little arbitration activity. The Scottish Bar (Faculty) is even smaller than Northern Ireland’s. Nonetheless, the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh recently announced a program to offer arbitration as a means of resolving personal injury disputes.
The Bar of Ireland has a both a well-developed presence in the legal community of the European Union and also a significant commitment to international arbitration. If the Brexit negotiations result in a customs zone that permits the counties of Northern Ireland to continue without a border between them and the rest of Ireland and if all citizens, including barristers, in Northern Ireland continue to have the right to dual citizenship, my friends in England & Wales, Dublin, Belfast and Edinburgh could be poised to offer unique dispute resolution services to the European and broader business community.