Chicago Journal of International Law


The practice of international commercial arbitration, as its name suggests, involves the resolution of disputes between parties located in different countries and, in many cases, who come from vastly different cultures. As one might expect, counsel to parties in international arbitrations and members of these arbitral tribunals alike are commonly from different countries. Invariably, such cases also bring together attorneys trained in the different legal traditions of the common law and civil law. International arbitration has existed for centuries as a form of dispute resolution, but has increased dramatically since the passage of the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of International Arbitral Awards. Until the past two decades, international arbitration was more well- known in civil law countries, with less acceptance in the United States until after the US ratification of the New York Convention in 1970. As parties and counsel from the United States and United Kingdom have increasingly participated in the international arbitral system, the system has evolved to incorporate elements of both the civil and common law traditions. As explained below, the rules and procedures that commonly apply today in international arbitration reflect a mixture of common law and civil law norms; the system also appears to be evolving more in a common law direction that tends to favor counsel trained in the adversarial process. This essay is meant to highlight just a few examples of this trend, each of which reflects a unique intersection of these traditions.