Speech by Sir William Blair: Contemporary Trends in the Resolution of International Commercial and Financial Disputes

Sir William Blair gave the speech “Contemporary Trends in the Resolution of International Commercial and Financial Disputes” at the Institute of Commercial and Corporate Law Annual Lecture 2016 at Durham University on the 21 January 2016.

It is a pleasure to give the 2016 ICCL lecture. The Institute has done excellent work in promoting the study of commercial law at Durham Law School, and it is a privilege to follow earlier annual ICCL lectures given by Lord Hodge and Sir Ross Cranston.

I spent a good part of my childhood, literally as well as metaphorically, in the shadow of Durham’s great cathedral. The time of its completion in the 12th century was a period of strong economic growth. In dealing with the disputes that inevitably arise in trade, the merchants of the time had to cope with problems that are still with us.  How do you develop portable rules that will work in different places? How do you input practical expertise so that disputes are resolved in accordance with commercial expectations? What are the underlying values which the system should reflect?

It is interesting to note that from a very different perspective, and in the context of a discussion on the future of arbitration law, Professor Shen Wei has recently analysed the medieval contribution in these respects in the form of the lex mercatoria and the merchant courts, and asked how they chime in our very different global environment.

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