London International Disputes Week changes with confidence
LIDW will explore how the disputes community is adapting to a world that has changed dramatically since its 2019 launch, reports Ben Rigby
For most, the month of May means a Coronation and two successive Bank Holiday weekends marking the start of the month. For disputes lawyers, however, and their clients, mid-May sees the return of London International Disputes Week (LIDW) from 15-19 May..
This year’s event, which is supported by The Global Legal Post as a media partner, will be keenly anticipated. Previous iterations of LIDW have ranged from exploratory in 2019 to pandemic-era virtual events in 2021. The focus of the 2022 iteration was disputes in a global, sustainable, and ethical world.
This year's event aims to build on its reputation as a forward-thinking forum for discussion that embraces legal London's commitment to diversity in all its forms. That diversity extends from litigation to arbitration, to diversity in appointments and hearings, and to the wide variety of practice areas in which London law firms are rightly seen as leaders.
The new theme is not accidental. Each version of LIDW has built upon the ones before it. The broader banner, however, stresses London's versatility as a centre for commercial disputes and, crucially, its adaptability to change.
This is not to say that London doesn't have its challenges; far from it. Brexit has made it less global for many while debates about the cab rank rule and events like the Post Office scandal have raised important ethical questions.
These issues are all addressed in the programme. Nor does the event shy away from the need for justice for consumers at home even as it seeks to attract corporate clients from abroad, with a flagship reception in aid of the National Pro Bono Centre and sessions on consumer class actions, mediation, greenwashing, and diversity.
The updated theme for 2023 is among several fundamental changes aimed at boosting the number of international delegates and increasing opportunities for representatives from the UK and beyond to host discussions on specialist topics.
That means a brighter, slicker, one-day conference, greater member autonomy in events, an enhanced social programme, and more collaboration between sets, law firms, expert witnesses, and litigation funders, as well as judges and corporate counsel.
This year’s event sees a special place for international arbitration, with a designated International Arbitration Day as a flagship event showcasing the importance of London as a global centre.
This dispels accusations that past LIDW events have been insufficiently focused on arbitration given dedicated weeks such as Paris Arbitration Week or Hong Kong Arbitration Week.
Past LIDW delegates would not have noticed a lack of arbitral events – but a greater focus on organisation and presentation has enabled London to offer its distinct daily focus on the topic alongside a thematic presence throughout the week.
Arbitration's great and the good will open the day, followed by twelve in-person panels on jurisdictions and regions from China to Latin America, hosted at three key law firms—Mayer Brown, Herbert Smith Freehills and Allen & Overy.
Each venue reflects London's disputes legacy at its highest, from US-headquartered Mayer Brown's leadership in insurance and energy to HSF's work as a self-styled' disputes powerhouse' internationally, to Magic Circle law firm A&O's commitment to Europe, Asia and, increasingly, the US.
All three firms showcase London's ambition to serve the City itself as well as an international marketplace. Yet smaller firms are not ignored; I confidently say that as I am leading an interactive roundtable discussion featuring an expert panel speaking on the challenges and opportunities facing international disputes boutiques on 18 May.
As a transport hub, London has always been a key draw for international delegates. So too will a new venue for LIDW, with the core conference being held at 8 Northumberland Avenue, allowing delegates to stay at the intersection of political and legal London. The nearby Sherlock Holmes pub testifies to the area's association with Arthur Conan Doyle's famous creation and Northumberland Avenue features in Hound of the Baskervilles.
No detective work, however, is needed to understand the event's refreshed outlook. CMS partner and co-chair of LIDW, Richard Bamforth, said it was important because it enables disputes to be seen through the lens of UK lawyers and their peers overseas and, ultimately, international businesses.
The international nature of those clients has also received a buff. In repeating the popular International Day, events will be staggered across multiple time zones, allowing virtual attendance for international delegates, the in-person audience, and London lawyers seeking to focus on the markets in which they work.
Luke Harrison, of Keidan Harrison, who led on international strategy for this year's event, stressed the event's flexibility which allows members and delegates to plan their programme based on specialist interests and practice areas.
By taking on board member feedback, LIDW has adapted to the changing world around it, like the professions it represents. It is a progressive evolution that reflects the evolving needs of the organisation and its lawyers, corporate clients, and consumers. One surely worth witnessing.
London International Disputes Week takes place from 15 - 19 May. Click here to read the full programme. For enquiries email LIDW@tmb-events.com.
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