London’s commercial courts had a record caseload last year despite the pandemic - but there is no room for complacency about the City's position in the international dispute resolution market, an authoritative annual survey reports. 

According to the latest Commercial Courts Report, published by Portland Communications, in the 12 months to 30 March 2021, the business and property courts handed down 292 judgments, 47% up on the previous year. So far, the courts have proved resilient to the potential effects of the lockdown and the fallout from Brexit, the report observes. 

Business and Property Court, Rolls Building, London

Number of judgments handed down in the business and property courts is up 47%

Source: Michael Cross

But while UK parties counted for 50% of the 1,336 total number of litigants, the mix of foreign nationals coming to the courts changed notably during the year.  The US overtook Russia as the second biggest user nation, with the number of US litigants rising by 75%, in the year. 

Meanwhile, only 11.5% of total litigants were from the EU27, down from the high of 16.5% recorded three years ago. While this decline may be attributed to the fall out from Brexit, 
it also corresponds with the establishment of international commercial courts across the EU, including in France, Germany and the Netherlands, the report notes. 'With the added uncertainties around, litigants may choose to settle their disputes closer to home.'

Overall, the report concludes that the City cannot afford to be complacent about its role as a dispute resolution hub. Alongside the foreign courts, which may begin siphoning off cases that otherwise might have gone to London, 'arbitration still appears to be a more formidable competitor than the international commercial courts', Pamela Bookman of Fordham University comments in the report.