Internationally, arbitration is also booming, especially when it comes to foreign investment in countries where laws may not protect companies as readily or where corruption has been a problem. Also, foreign firms are wary of the jury system, said experts.
Miami typically handles the third highest volume of international arbitration cases in the country, just behind New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco, says Burton A. Landy, a shareholder in the Miami office of Akerman Senterfitt and the founding chairman of the Miami International Arbitration Society.
But perhaps the biggest sign of Miami’s importance in the arbitration world, says Landy, is its connection to the International Council for Commercial Arbitration. Next year Miami will host the 22nd congress for the Hague-based ICCA, a nongovernmental organization accredited by the United Nations that helps establish the ground rules for arbitration worldwide. For arbitration experts, that’s akin to hosting a papal visit. Only one other U.S. city has held that honor, and that was New York in 1986.
“We have aspirations,” Landy says. “We see Miami being recognized as a world-class place for international arbitration.”
The culture in Miami, where Spanish and Portuguese can be heard in the streets, adds a comfort level for Latin Americans conducting arbitration here, says José Astigarraga, who handles complex commercial cases and serves as a vice president on the esteemed London Court of International Arbitration. Although based in Miami, the Havana-born Astigarraga co-founded the LCIA’s Latin American Users’ Council.
Additionally, Florida allows any lawyer to handle an arbitration case, not just those who are members of the Florida Bar, says Astigarraga, a ruling his firm, Astigarraga Davis, championed. “You should have any lawyer the client wants,’” Astigarraga says. “That makes Florida a very welcoming place for arbitration.”
Miami’s global status and location add to international buzz, says Adolfo E. Jimenez, the partner who oversees Holland & Knight’s international arbitration and litigation team. Even Chiann Bao, secretary-general of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, remarked how Miami kept coming up in her discussions about arbitration as she toured Latin America, Jimenez says.
“They talked about Miami as the site for Latin America,” Jimenez says Bao told him. “We both said in many ways Miami is the Hong Kong of the region, of the Latin American region.”
Jimenez oversees the firm’s litigation/arbitration section, which includes eight attorneys in Miami, five in New York and three in Washington, D.C. “International arbitration matters have increased six-fold in the last 10 years and three-fold in the last five years,” Jimenez says of his firm’s practice. “The average amount at issue doubled between 2003 and 2008, and quadrupled in the last five years” — now in the tens of millions.
For many local law firms, arbitration is no longer a sidelight but a fundamental part of the practice. “In the last five years, this is no longer a phase,” he says. “This is here to stay.”
Daniel E. González agrees. He serves as co-director of the Hogan Lovells international arbitration practice, where he is a partner in the Miami office. With 160 lawyers in roughly half of the firm’s 42 offices worldwide dedicated to international arbitration, Hogan Lovells is the local industry leader.