The competition between Miami and Atlanta for recognition as international hubs for cross-border business disputes is underway. Miami is the undisputed leader in Latin American arbitration, while Atlanta is positioning itself as a global hub.
The two cities share many advantages. Both Florida and Georgia law are favorable for international arbitration, and both cities are part of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which is more friendly to international arbitration than any other federal circuit. Both states' bars also allow foreign lawyers to handle arbitrations. And both are sophisticated cities that are less expensive than New York or the traditional European seats of Paris, London and Geneva—and newer hotspots such as Singapore and Hong Kong.
Partner Carolyn Lamm of White & Case, which is representing the Grupo Unidos por el Canal, a consortium of Spanish, Italian and Belgian contractors and other clients in arbitrations in Miami observed generally the Florida arbitration law, courts, and Miami as an easy city to travel to from South America and cosmopolitan city were factors clients have considered in selecting Miami as a site.
In a coup, Miami was the host city in April for the 2014 global meeting of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration, which attracted about 1,000 people. The University of Miami School of Law is offering a master's degree in international arbitration. In another advance, Miami-Dade Circuit Court this year started a court exclusively focused on international commercial arbitration, with two specially trained judges to hear arbitration award appeals. New York, London and Paris are the only other cities with such courts.
Jonathan Hamilton, the head of Latin American arbitration for White & Case, said Miami did not become the leader in Latin American arbitration overnight: "The battle to become an arbitration hub is happening on a global basis."