Law firms specializing in international arbitration stand to profit from the rapid rise in global disputes.
"As recently as two decades ago, such international arbitration was not a big revenue generator," said Carolyn Lamm, a White & Case partner who specializes in the field.
Most treaties, intended to give foreign investors like corporations an avenue outside of local courts in case their investments were nationalized, "did not take effect until the 1980s, and we had two or three cases a year," she said.
White & Case since has grown to a 150-person arbitration practice and currently oversees 223 arbitration matters valued at $73 billion, according to Global Arbitration Review, a law journal. Those cases included a $2.5 billion dispute in which the Canadian mining company Gold Reserve is claiming that Venezuela seized its mining properties.
Navigating the complexities of different legal systems in an international dispute can be a daunting task.
"If an investor is confronted with a dispute, arbitration as a means to resolve the dispute and to obtain an enforceable award is much better," said Lamm. "You can then enforce the award anywhere you can find an asset. But if you use the courts, you really have to rely on deference to the local court, and that might not turn out as well."