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“Arbitration is the first choice for dispute resolution in the widest range of international commercial contracts,” flatly declares Adrian Winstanley, director-general and registrar of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA). “That could not be said 20 years ago.” The caseload of the International Chamber of Commerce, another top arbitral group, grew 45 percent in the 1990s and doubled since 1980. The LCIA docket more than doubled in the last five years. And both groups preside over big bucks. About three-quarters of LCIA cases involve claims for more than a million dollars, while the ICC pegs the total stakes at over a million dollars in 40 percent of cases. Modern arbitration was born in Paris with the ICC International Court of Arbitration, founded in 1921 during the first flush of globalization idealism. Today top lawyers from New York and London can hop a cab to an arbitration, or jet to any of a dozen favored forum cities. But, as a sponsoring body and global trendsetter, the ICC in Paris remains unsurpassed. The ICC’s 500-case-a-year docket is small even by the standards of the district of Wyoming, and the LCIA’s is still smaller. But this represents the tip of the private justice iceberg. Cases are overseen by more than 100 international arbitral institutions, and countless ad hoc cases are decided without a sponsor. And that doesn’t even include the myriad contract disputes negotiated in the shadow of arbitral law. In a system so decentralized, the ICC caseload is as good an index as can be found to track the growth of arbitration — and the globalization of legal disputes.

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