Private Dispute Resolution Profitable, But Not So Private

Oil and gas has rarely been an industry to suffer, even in downturn economies. Oil and gas law is no exception.

So, if you’re a firm who represents various on and offshore moguls, chances are you’ve been attempting to fly under the radar with your multiple multi-billion dollar awards. Turns out, whether high-stakes litigation or high-stakes arbitration, both trial and private dispute resolutions are difficult to achieve anonymously.

The AmLaw Daily just announced their Arbitration Scorecard 2011. Unsurprisingly, there was big money exchanged (and big law to exchange it) despite bleak legal outlooks and projections this past year.

Among the 113 billion-dollar cases involved in the survey, 65 cases involved “old-fashioned contracts” and 48 cases involved, in part, “investment treaties or legislation.”

“The full survey, available at americanlawyer.com/focuseurope, captures a total of 261 eligible disputes active during 2009-2010: treaty cases with stakes of at least $100 million and contract cases with stakes of at least half a billion. Information on these often-confidential cases is drawn from attorney questionnaires, supplemented by reporting and the harvesting of public sources.”

Oil and gas account for over one third of the survey’s billion-dollar cases. Eight of eleven involved private dispute resolution awards of over $350 million since January 2009. However, no oil and gas litigation verdicts of a similar amount were awarded in U.S. courts, despite producing 11 verdicts of at least $350 million during that time, according to ALM Media, LLC VerdictSearch.

It seems as though, this year, oil and gas is trying to keep their multiple multi-million dollar disputes out of court and out of the news.

 This trend toward private international arbitration by oil and gas is understandable, considering the widespread negative impact that the Deepwater Horizon incident placed on the industry as a whole.

Instead of public fights about contracts and fees that can only further soil the industry’s reputation, oil and gas companies are seeking more subtle methods of negotiation.

Still, it makes you wonder how many firms or markets, such as technology tycoons or environmentally unfriendly companies with image issues, will jump the arbitration bandwagon in order to ensure timely, cost-effective, fair, and sometimes-secret awards for their clients.

As an attorney—especially those out of work—the Arbitration Scorecard certainly highlights a legal niche that makes a lawyer’s expertise more valuable.

In those cases, best market your services to the four firms who have remained at the top of AmLaw’s charts for three consecutive scorecard years: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, White & Case LLP, King & Spalding and Shearman & Sterling LLP.

On the other hand, individuals are not alone in seizing international arbitration’s competitive advantage. Smaller firm, Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle snuck up the ranks at fifth in terms of number of arbitration cases handled this year, a stark contrast to their position as seventeenth in Arbitration Scorecard 2010.

It seems Curis, Mallet is refocusing its attention on the number of alternative dispute resolution cases it handles, and thus, high-yielding and fast-achieving awards.

There’s business to be had in terms of international arbitration. But, whether or not your firm participates in these private dispute resolutions, it’s important to note that technology today makes it nearly impossible to keep awards completely confidential.

-WB

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One response to “Private Dispute Resolution Profitable, But Not So Private

  1. Pingback: Legal Upsets Regarding Fourth Amendment Rights, And Three Ways To Prepare Your Firm For Change |

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