There is no international court for business disputes, whether routine business-to-business controversies or investor-state cases, such as the many billion-dollar claims pending against Venezuela, Argentina and Ecuador. The only accessible forum is that of international arbitration, which in the last quarter-century has become a vast and borderless forensic industry.
Ten years ago, the study of international arbitration was confined to a handful of law schools. Attorneys practicing in the field came from other disciplines, learning case by case. Today, the specialization is de rigueur at top-tier schools in the world, and the University of Miami School of Law has become international arbitration's most crucial hub.
The subject has been much on the mind of Miami Law students and program directors in recent days. The school's International Graduate Law Programs (IGLP) announced a competition for a scholarship for its newest program in International Arbitration, and hosted a lecture in its International Law Lecture Series. The lecture featured an attorney at the top of the field and one of the rising stars of international law – Lucy Reed, co-head of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer global arbitration group, and Erica Stein, an associate at Hanotiau & van den Berg in Belgium, where she specializes in international arbitration.
At the same time, Young Arbitration Practitioners (YAP), an international organization of lawyers specializing in arbitration, held their ninth colloquium in Miami – their first in the United States. It was sponsored by the University of Miami School of Law, along with the Miami International Arbitration Society (MIAS) and local law firms. Two of the pressing issues discussed were access to arbitration and alternatives to arbitration at the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). In addition, the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA) named Miami as the host city for its 2014 bi-annual Congress, the premier event on the arbitration calendar.
Miami Law's International Graduate Law Programs cater to a select group of LL.M. students who are focused on several areas of international law: U.S. and Transnational Law for Foreign Lawyers; Inter-American, International, Ocean and Coastal law; and the newest, International Arbitration. More than 50 students from 28 countries join UM's legal community every year for these unique fields of study. The IGLP has graduated more than 1,300 alumni who are living and practicing in more than 90 countries.
In January, Miami Law announced the first Young ICCA – University of Miami Scholarship competition for an LL.M. in international arbitration. A scholarship is available to be awarded to a top member of Young ICCA, based on a combination of scores, recommendations, and a 7,500-word essay on one of four arbitration topics. The closing date for submissions is March 23, and the recipient will be announced in June by Miami Law Visiting Professor Albert Jan van den Berg at the ICCA conference in Singapore.
"We are particularly excited about this opportunity because international arbitration is one of the fastest growing fields in international law," said Jessica Carvalho Morris, the director of IGLP. "We have a top program and are preparing the best practitioners and scholars out there. We want to inspire and help build the future leaders of arbitration. We are looking for a stellar candidate with a strong interest in the field of international arbitration, who will be able to represent Young ICCA and the University of Miami School of Law."
The IGLP hosted two online chats for Young ICCA members who are interested in applying to the scholarship. The candidates joined IGLP from all parts of the world in lively exchanges with Marike Paulsson – 2010-2012 co-chair of Young ICCA and a graduate of our International Law LL.M. program – and were surprised by a guest visit from Prof. Jan Paulsson – holder of the Michael Klein Distinguished Scholar Chair and Faculty Chair of the Specialization in International Arbitration – who answered questions ranging from why study at Miami Law to his own seminar on Advanced Arbitration and its requirements. IGLP will host the last chat on March 14.
"Miami's place and importance in the international arbitration's universe is solidifying with the University of Miami offering the first Young ICCA Scholarship award, a first in the international arbitration community," Marike Paulsson said. At the 34th lecture of the International Law Lecture Series, presented on Feb. 28 at Miami Law, Reed and Stein provided invaluable insights. Reed was an arbitrator on the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission, co-director of the Claims Resolution Tribunal for Dormant Accounts, and served as U.S. agent to the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal; and Stein worked as counsel at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Court of Arbitration. In a discussion moderated by Professor Paulsson, they spoke to an audience comprised of students, faculty and practitioners about what it means to be an international lawyer.
Over 70 people attended the February 26 YAP colloquium, a mix of practitioners from Miami as well as various countries and students from Miami Law and other local law schools. The Secretary-General of ICSID, Meg Kinnear, addressed the controversial question whether there needs to be an alternative to ICSID. Professors van den Berg and Paulsson, the two top-ranked international arbitrators, moderated the panels and brought their considerable expertise to the event. "It was a privilege to have the Secretary General of ICSID come and be part of this outstanding event," Carvalho Morris said. "It was also inspiring to see how engaged the Miami legal community is in making the city a center for international arbitration."
Miami responded with a tremendous team effort and spirit. The local group of young arbitration practitioners, Future of Arbitration: Miami (FA:M), set up an arbitration "happening" at Primary Projects Space in Miami's Design District that featured Jesse Nite, a DJ and a visual artist, inviting the young lawyers to participate in Art by Numbers. Members of the Miami International Arbitration Society and the University of Miami law students mingled with participants from around the United States, Latin America and Europe.
The panels at the YAP colloquium – with Professors Paulsson and van den Berg, the ICSID's Kinnear, and their counterparts Stein, Dan Tan, Diego Gosis and Cristina Cardenas – were encouraged by an audience that sought to explore the future of international arbitration, while speakers and participants expressed lively criticisms of the status quo in the field. "Miami has proven to be capable of providing a home to the international arbitration community in a visionary manner that is completely out of the box," Marike Paulsson said.
"The YAP Conference could not find better venue than Miami and especially the Design District, which symbolizes modernity and creativity," said Allia Skalli, an International Arbitration LL.M. student from Morocco. "In fact, the YAP conference was all about that: it was young, diverse, colorful and full of inspiring, talented people. It was a wonderful opportunity to see change coming and be part of it."
In addition to the YAP event, the International Law Lecture Series and the Scholarship Competition, the School of Law and the Florida Bar hosted a pre-moot competition in preparation for the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot. Six Florida law schools, and one from Louisiana, competed and were judged by more than 50 practicing Florida lawyers, part of preparations for the big Vis Competition in Vienna in April. Both J.D. and LL.M. students worked hard in ensuring that the Pre-Vis competition was a success.
"International arbitration is a growing field and Miami was the center of the action," said Lauran San Roman, a third-year Miami Law student. "I was impressed and proud of how UM students and young Miami practitioners contributed to Miami's growth in this area."
Overall, the string of events was "fantastic," she said, for "professional development, learning and networking with the world's best."