South Asian arbitration network launches in London

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The Asian Lawyers’ Arbitration Network (ALAN) was launched last month [May] in London for the growing community of arbitration lawyers of South Asian origin in the city. “The idea behind ALAN is to bring together this community so that we can interact on a regular basis to share experiences and learn from each other,” Kushal Gandhi, a senior associate at CMS, told India Business Law Journal.

“The other motivation for ALAN is to help find ways to promote London as a hub for South Asia-related arbitrations,” said Gandhi, and to rebuild a lost emotional connection between London and South Asia. ALAN was conceived by Gandhi, Leïla Choukroune, professor of international economic law at the University of Portsmouth and editor of the Transnational Dispute Management special issue on India, and Rahul Donde, a counsel at Lévy Kaufmann-Kohler.

ALAN also serves as a platform for knowledge-sharing in light of two important macroeconomic changes affecting the UK and South Asia-related arbitrations, said Sherina Petit, a partner and head of the India practice at Norton Rose Fulbright. Firstly, “a perceived shift in the seat of South Asia-related arbitrations – particularly India-related arbitrations – from London”, and secondly, “the need of the hour is to continue to promote London’s expertise and attractiveness as a hub for international arbitration in the wake of Brexit.”

Gandhi says ALAN will operate in “an informal and casual setting” for the moment in line with the community ethos it wishes to create. Anyone of South Asian origin or with an interest in that market from an arbitration perspective is welcome to join. ALAN is not limited to qualified lawyers, nor is there an age restriction. Membership is free at present.

“A number of arbitration practitioners from South Asian jurisdictions frequently visit London and ALAN provides an opportunity for London-based practitioners to connect and develop a relationship with individuals from an international background,” said Petit.

ALAN’s founders have observed the significant growth and increasing sophistication of international arbitration in Asia, driven by the influx of foreign investment and growing international arbitration expertise in the region.

“South Asian jurisdictions are also focusing their resources on promoting international arbitration, in particular institutional arbitration, as a means for resolving disputes. For example, a new bill is being introduced in the Indian parliament to establish the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC),” said Nishant Singh, an associate at Norton Rose Fulbright.

ALAN was officially launched on 7 May at Norton Rose Fulbright’s office and attended by solicitors and barristers, third-party funders, court clerks, and marketing professionals from various law firms and chambers. “There was a general sense that ALAN is an initiative that is welcome,” said Gandhi. “[This extends to] law firms from India with a keen interest in wanting to collaborate on future events.”

“So far, potential members have expressed an interest in [topics such as] the possibility or future of third-party funding in South Asia, the use of technology in the arbitral process and the development of ‘localized’ best practices,” said Donde.

Gandhi said he welcomes ideas on how best to coordinate future events, improve the network’s website, management of registrations, etc., as the roadmap for ALAN is still being developed.