THERE is money being made, and until now Australian lawyers haven’t had their share. But a new dispute resolution centre in Sydney is set to open the floodgates.
Commonwealth Attorney General Robert McClelland and NSW Attorney General John Hatzistergos have unveiled plans to fit out Australia’s first dedicated international dispute resolution centre in Sydney, giving Australian lawyers access to a booming market.
“Australia is well placed to capitalise on the booming global market for cross border dispute resolution, particularly in the Asia Pacific region,” McClelland said.
“We enjoy very close ties to Asia and Europe, we have stable and robust economic, political and legal environments and we boast some of the best legal practitioners in the world.”
NSW Attorney General John Hatzistergos said a prime location has been selected for the Australian International Disputes Centre with the fit out to begin this month and the centre expected to open mid-year.
“This will be a world class seat in a prime CBD location close to existing legal services that will position Sydney as the new regional hub for international dispute resolution,” he said.
The Centre, jointly funded by the Commonwealth and NSW Governments, the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA) and the Australian Commercial Disputes Centre, will strengthen capacity for corporations to resolve disputes outside the courts.
McClelland said ongoing reforms to arbitration laws, at both a State and Federal level, will create an international best practice legal framework for arbitration in Australia.
“These reforms provide the local framework for our highly skilled and internationally experienced Australian arbitrators to resolve disputes on Australian territory, under Australian arbitration law,” he said.
Director of ACICA, Professor Doug Jones, estimated the direct and indirect economic benefits of the centre are “likely to run into tens of millions of dollars each year.”
“As well as the legal fees flowing to the centre and the legal services sector, there will be enormous flow-on for the professional services, hospitality, tourism and support sectors,” he said.
Dispute resolution in Australia has been undergoing some reform, with the legal profession, including general counsel, mixed about its benefits.
Some have complained dispute resolution is more costly, and can take longer to resolve disputes than taking it to the courts.
But David Fairlie, general counsel at Competitive Foods Australia and former senior partner at Mallesons Stephen Jaques, who is a board member at the ACICA, has previously supported the process to The New Lawyer.
“I, too, have heard the arbitration horror stories… usually involving domestic arbitration and not international arbitration. But when you drill down it is often the case that those counsel complaining about excessive costs and delays, have had little prior involvement in the matter - in the selection of arbitrators with a demonstrable record of speedy resolution, and appropriate Rules which facilitate this end,” he said.
Fairlie said the recently announced amendments to the International Arbitration Act, and the redrafting of the state Commercial Arbitration Acts to apply the UNCITRAL Model Law to domestic arbitration, will enhance the process of reform in Australia.
International arbitration is emerging as the preferred choice for resolving commercial disputes, particularly in Asian business.
“The explosion in arbitration is largely due to the fact that international investors want to avoid the uncertainty of litigation in a foreign court system with the associated lack of familiarity over processes,” said the ACICA’s Jones.
“Australia will be the place to come to when businesses want their problems fixed, and fixed fast and fairly.”
The new $600,000 facility, to open in Sydney this year, will feature world-class communication, audiovisual and video conferencing facilities, tribunal facilities, conference rooms and access to translation and transcription services.