Rolls Building will rule the world undisputed

IT WILL take some time for the full implications of last week’s EU Summit to become clear. For my part, I will spend much of today in discussion with UK-based EU ambassadors at the Polish presidency’s conference on financial stability and growth, which takes place at the Mansion House. My recent discussions with leading practitioners and policy-influencers have confirmed that the City’s key aim continues to be to support the single market, restore euro stability, and foster job creation and economic growth across Europe – a common goal of all EU member states.

Meanwhile, the City’s global competitiveness has been strengthened, with the installation of the new Rolls Building – the largest specialist centre for financial, business and property dispute resolution in the world – which will enhance our standing as the destination of choice for global businesses. I was fortunate enough to get a first-hand look at this centre of excellence for high value international dispute resolution when it was opened by the Queen last week.

World industry leaders – and other prominent figures – choose to settle their disputes in the UK for a reason. UK courts provide an internationally recognised guarantee of impartiality, integrity and enforceability. Modern businesses, however, also require advanced infrastructure for support and in this the legal sector is no exception.

London’s concentration of legal and financial expertise is unrivalled anywhere. But we are aware of the competition: New York, Geneva, Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong are already progressing as centres of legal expertise.

The Rolls Building is an investment in our future that will reap considerable benefits and help us to meet these challenges. A thriving legal sector is integral to the success of London and the UK.

The UK’s legal services industry generated £19.3bn in 2010, and contributed £3.6bn in exports, triple the level of a decade ago. Over 200 foreign law firms have offices in London, with more than half the world’s leading firms choosing the capital as their headquarters. In fact, most of the litigation before courts in the UK involves at least one foreign party, which is unsurprising given that English law is used around the world for commercial transactions.

These are strong figures but there is significant scope for expansion as high growth markets, such as India, gradually open up their market. I will be making the case for greater access for UK legal services in these countries throughout my mayoralty.

That is why I am honoured to be part of Unlocking Disputes – a new ground-breaking, industry-led campaign to promote London as the global dispute resolution centre. The campaign, which brings together the Bar Council, the Law Society, TheCityUK, and the City of London Corporation, showcases the quality and value which London’s legal services sector can offer clients all over the globe.

London is already a world leader in dispute resolution. The number of disputes resolved through arbitration and mediation in the UK was well over 34,000 in 2009 – up from less than 20,000 in 2007.

The Rolls Building will help us to boost this considerably and ensure we retain our place at the heart of the global legal services industry.

David Wootton is Lord Mayor of the City of London.