Financial market list ‘operating well’ says commercial chief

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A specialist list hosted in the London-based Rolls Building to deal with financial market cases is ‘operating well’, the new head of the Commercial Court has said in his first public speech. 

Sir William Blair (pictured), who this month took over as judge in charge of the court, revealed that by the end of last year, eight new claims had been commenced in the list as well as two existing cases that were transferred in.

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Blair was speaking at Durham University on contemporary trends in the resolution of international commercial and financial disputes.

He welcomed as a 'positive development' the emergence of commercial courts in the developing world and said that dispute resolution procedures, whether through the courts, arbitration or mediation, worked best ‘when they work in harmony with each other’.

He said an effective judicial system with the court at its centre was considered one of the foundations of successful modern economies, citing the development of four new commercial courts in the Gulf and India.

The Dubai International Finance Centre Courts opened in 2008, Blair helped to set up the Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre in 2009, and the Abu Dhabi Global Market, a ‘broad-based international financial centre’, opened last year.

Blair described India as ‘another key emerging markets economy’.

In December, the Indian parliament enacted the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of the High Courts Act 2015, and the Arbitration and Conciliation Act (Amendment) Act 2015.

Blair said India’s specialist commercial courts was aimed at establishing the country’s status as a dispute resolution centre and more importantly to improve the legal climate for inward investment.

‘There are of course quite a number of dedicated commercial courts in various countries, and these are examples cited to show that the number is growing,’ he said.

‘This is a positive development, and there is scope to develop links between them, a cooperation which accords with the international nature of commercial dispute resolution.'

Blair revealed that his own court would be looking at ways to simplify the process for expert evidence required on one or more issues in a case. The court may, in ‘suitable’ cases, adopt a practice used in the Technology and Construction Court, in which experts agree the issues before preparing their reports.

He added that the court would be looking at ways to further formalise ‘pragmatic docketing’ as part of case management continuity.

‘The time is probably ripe for an overall review’ of the Admiralty and Commercial Court Guide, which he described as a vehicle through which the court can ‘convey its expectations’ of practitioners, such as a ‘high degree of cooperation’.

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