find the latest legal job
Corporate/Commercial Lawyers (2-5 years PAE)
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Specialist commercial law firm · Long-term career progression
View details
Graduate Lawyer / Up to 1.5 yr PAE Lawyer
Category: Personal Injury Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Mentoring Opportunity in Regional QLD · Personal Injury Law
View details
Corporate and Commercial Partner
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Full time · Join a leading Adelaide commercial law firm
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Sydney NSW
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
Joining the heavyweights

Joining the heavyweights

Australia aspires to be a hub for international arbitration, but is it ready to take on the competition? Bronwyn Lincoln asks.

There is constant debate within the Australian legal, business and academic fraternities concerning the country's future as an international arbitration hub.

Emphasis is almost always given to our geographical location and the fact that our major cities will never be stopovers for major transit routes. Observations are also made about the ‘head start’ of our regional Asian neighbours (notably Singapore, but also Hong Kong and more recently Kuala Lumpur and Seoul). 

A final argument, as put forward by Ms Rashda Rana SC, is that increased government funding is pivotal to Australia’s success.

Although these are valid observations, there are, however, other considerations. There is also the question of whether Australia’s future in international commercial arbitration must mirror its regional competitors, or whether it can shine just as brightly with a different model.

It remains the case, even in 2015, that many Australian businesses, including large multinationals, do not appreciate the significance of international commercial arbitration to global trade. The fact is that a foreign arbitral award is, generally speaking, far easier to enforce outside of Australia than a judgment of a local Australian court. This can make a big difference to the risk profile of a cross-border transaction. When corporates are not aware of the importance of international commercial arbitration to their own foreign investment and trading, it is unreasonable for us to expect that these corporates will promote Australia or will even turn their mind to selecting an Australian city as a place of arbitration. 

Where an Australian business consciously agrees to international commercial arbitration as the dispute resolution process for a cross border transaction, that same business is very likely to choose foreign lawyers to advise it through a dispute when the place of arbitration is somewhere outside Australia. When a corporate makes this decision, Australia misses out on another opportunity to make a contribution to international commercial arbitration. In fact, Australian lawyers are welcome and unrestrained by regulatory requirements in many jurisdictions around the world when representing parties in international arbitration proceedings. By engaging Australian lawyers, a party to an international arbitration proceeding will highlight the strength and expertise of the Australian legal profession in this growth area.

As to whether Australia should compete ‘head to head’ with regional hubs like Singapore, it must also be realistic about the challenges, its prospects and the time period over which this will be assessed. It is perhaps too soon to expect Australia to establish itself as a key player in international arbitration services when many of its own corporate constituents have yet to appreciate how important the market is. Government funding is not the only answer – the first and most significant step is getting the message across to the business community. In other words, expanding the international arbitration market within Australia will go a long way to creating the right environment in which Australia can pursue its objective of establishing itself globally as a regional centre.

Bronwyn Lincoln is a partner at Herbert Smith Freehills.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Joining the heavyweights
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Dec 18 2017
‘Exorbitant legal fees’ under government microscope
With the growing number of class action proceedings in Australia, the government is looking at how ...
Funds, money, cash
Dec 18 2017
Law Access WA receives welcome funding
Law Access Western Australia has received a grant from the state government to fund its pro bono leg...
Thomson Reuters adds to Practical Law team
Dec 18 2017
Thomson Reuters adds to Practical Law team
Thomson Reuters has appointed an experienced real estate lawyer to its Practical Law Australia team....
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...