New York Times DealBook: Growth in Global Disputes Brings Big Paychecks for Law Firms, by Elizabeth Olson:
Debt woes, broken contracts and soured business deals may cost global investors billions in losses and create seemingly never-ending headaches for policy makers. But there is a set of specialists profiting from such geopolitical problems: arbitration lawyers.
The legal profession is facing corporate cutbacks in spending and pushback over billable hours, but at least a dozen law firms based in the United States are in line for huge paydays stemming from myriad international issues.
About a dozen legal heavyweights like White & Case, Shearman & Sterling and King & Spalding are benefiting from the growing number of lucrative, complex international disputes. About 120 such actions worth more than $1 billion each are pending at international arbitration tribunals worldwide, according to a recent tally by American Lawyer magazine.
Often, these awards result from suits brought by companies or commercial interests against foreign governments or entities they control, invoking investment protections in international or bilateral treaties. Big awards also stem from contract disputes between two or more private entities that have invested internationally. ...
“The volume and complexity of deals are ramping up, illustrated by the 163 percent growth in the number of U.S. law firm offices opened overseas last year,” said William D. Henderson, director of the Center on the Global Legal Profession at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law.
Law firms are vying to recruit law partners with international experience, and law schools like Columbia University’s are adding graduate courses in the field, said George A. Bermann, who teaches arbitration at Columbia and is director of its new Center for International Commercial and Investment Arbitration. “Not only are courses multiplying,” he said in an e-mail, but “enrollment — in all — is growing.”
(Hat Tip: Maureen Weston.)