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Increased Globalism and the Need for American Trial Lawyers to Embrace International Arbitration

Midyear 2011

In late April 2011, I returned to Warsaw, Poland, my birthplace, to teach at the University of Warsaw School of Law. The University of Warsaw and the University of Florida, Levin College of
Law, collaborate in a one-year program in American law for Polish law students. While I have returned to Poland on three earlier occasions, 1993, 2006 and 2007, in my recent trip I saw a nation that had matured and evolved to a free market economy with a democratic society. Warsaw was filled with examples of multiculturalism that had been absent in my past visits to Poland. The country featured the same branded stores that appear in the other capitals of Europe; doing business with its neighbors appeared to be the norm, and the city offered a wide range of international dining and cultural offerings.

Through the course of the program, it became evident to me that this strong sense of globalism that I witnessed at the street level was also taking shape within the classroom. During the week, one of the senior law students asked for my advice. He had been accepted to LLM programs at four law schools and wanted my recommendation as to which school was the best for him. The schools were Harvard, Georgetown, Oxford and Cambridge. When I asked what he was seeking in the LLM program, he responded that he wanted to become a specialist in international arbitration. He seemed to favor an LLM from an American school, which would allow him to take the New York Bar and practice law in New York, specializing in international arbitration. This young man’s vision was to represent Polish business interests or foreign business interests in Poland in international arbitration disputes, primarily regarding exportation of Polish agricultural commodities. That observation caused me to pause and compare the global vision and sophistication of this law student to the aspirations of the typical senior American law student seeking employment here in the same worldwide economic environment.

Significantly, Miami has been regarded for years as the international gateway to Latin America. It is the lead trading partner with Brazil, and is increasingly eyed by emerging markets such as Colombia, Mexico, and Ecuador. In fact, the Miami Customs District set records for total trade in 2010 with $95.4 billion in imports and exports. And Miami is only expected to grow in its importance and prominence as an international business destination. However, only a few of our lawyers share the sense of globalism evidenced by those in other parts of the world.

Lawyers follow the economy, and as such, our region’s attorneys should be prepared to capitalize on the increasing importance that Miami will play in international business. As international business grows, the question of where issues will be tried when disputes arise, and the method by which they will be resolved, will become all the more important.

Businessmen rarely trust legal systems other than their own (and occasionally they trust no legal system), and as such, are turning more and more to international arbitration to resolve cross-border business disputes. One UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law) treaty has been signed by nearly 150 nations. They recognize that international arbitration awards are the equivalent of final judgments in each signatory nation. These international arbitration proceedings are business friendly, are judged by experienced international businessmen and lawyer arbitrators. They appear to be more understandable to the foreign businessman. International arbitration is likely to grow in direct proportion to the growth of international business. American trial lawyers need to be ready to enter this arena.

We have simply ignored this forum. Instead, South Florida lawyers generally (with some notable exceptions) have attempted to fit the round peg into the square hole of litigation. The future will call for a change that encompasses more international arbitration with more Florida lawyers developing this expertise.

Andrew C. Hall is the managing partner of Hall, Lamb and Hall, P.A., a Miami-based law firm specializing in complex corporate, business and securities litigation.

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