Miami: The City of Fun, Sun and International Arbitration

Nov 18, 2015   

By Allan A. Joseph
November 18, 2015

Miami has long been a destination city for its unrivaled beaches, eclectic culture and fun-filled days and nights. Likewise, because of its geographic position, Miami has been a gateway to international trade. Now, the same traits that have made Miami so attractive to the international traveler have combined with recent business and legal developments to transform Miami into the new hub for international dispute resolutions.

Frustrated with the unpredictability, sluggish pace and restrictions of conventional litigation, parties increasingly are incorporating arbitration clauses into their cross-border contracts. As a result, the number of international arbitration proceedings is growing at a rapid pace. Through prescient action by Miami’s business and elected leaders, Miami has become a top-five forum for such disputes, second only to New York in popularity for proceedings handled in the United States.

The American Arbitration Association’s International Center for Dispute Resolution reports that over the past 20 years, cases filed with that organization have increased five-fold. During the past five years, Miami has experienced a similar increase, with 156 international arbitration cases filed in Miami in 2014 compared with just 49 cases in 2010, and is on pace to top that total in 2015. This impressive increase prompted the ICDR to open a new Miami office to administer the ever-growing influx of such cases. Likewise, Miami’s rise to prominence lead to its selection last year to host the biennial congress of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration, which was held in the United States for the first time since 1986.

Miami’s international arbitral growth is no accident. Miami has the built-in infrastructure to accommodate international dispute resolutions. With its large, recently upgraded airport and seaport, Miami is readily accessible from virtually anywhere in the world. Its dynamic demographics lends a wealth of multilingual, multicultural arbitrators and translators. Moreover, the costs of arbitrating a case in Miami is substantially lower than New York, London or Paris, its main arbitral competitors. The city’s rising prominence as the designated locale for international commercial arbitration has resulted in Miami being the forum for several high profile, multibillion dollar actions. Cases from Latin America and Asia figure prominently among these cases, including the globally significant arbitration proceedings to resolve disputes arising from the expansion of the Panama Canal.

Miami’s growth in this arena cannot be attributed to demographics alone. Arbitral parties are able to agree upon the chosen forum within the body of their contractual agreements. Recognizing this factor, Miami’s leaders took the initiative to package Miami as the best choice for a dispute resolution forum.

First, the Florida legislature enacted the Florida International Commercial Arbitration Act (FICAA). Under the FICAA, cross-border companies may designate Miami as their preferred arbitration locale, regardless of whether there is any nexus between Miami and the parties or the transaction. Then, capitalizing on the momentum generated by the FICAA, Miami-Dade County announced the establishment of the International Commercial Arbitration Court (ICAC), a tribunal dedicated solely to facilitate international arbitration proceedings in Miami.

The ICAC is staffed by specially trained judges and employs progressive, business-effective rules to compel arbitration, and perhaps more significantly, promptly confirm any award. As further enticement, the Florida Bar amended its rules to permit appearances and remove the restrictions on non-Florida Bar attorneys, including foreign lawyers, who appear solely for the purpose of representing their respective clients for international arbitrations in Florida. The forward thinking mechanisms created to benefit parties who select Miami as their chosen arbitration forum has catapulted Miami as the preeminent locale for the resolution of international disputes.

As one of the world’s most attractive markets for global tourism and international investment, Miami is no stranger to adapting to progressive business opportunities. Inevitably, as international arbitration grows in Miami, so will the demand for trained, multilingual professionals who can service the dispute resolution industry. Local lawyers, court reporters, translators, expert witnesses and other South Florida litigation support personnel who are proficient with the procedures and nuances of FICAA will thrive.

Importantly, the benefits of an increase in international arbitration are not limited to the legal field. Local businesses can capitalize on this increased demand by focusing their efforts on developing a solid infrastructure that caters to the logistical needs of the arbitral process. In addition to the legal field, restaurants, hotels, transportation and a myriad of other service providers will be called upon to logistically support this growth industry. Miami is now the city of fun, sun and international arbitration.

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Allan A. Joseph is a partner at Fuerst, Ittleman, David & Joseph in Miami. He can be reached at ajoseph@fidjlaw.com.