New Center for International Arbitration Established

Furthers Teaching and Study of International Arbitration, Building on Well-Established Expertise

New York, April 30, 2012—Columbia Law School has established the Center for International Commercial and Investment Arbitration Law to further the teaching and study of international arbitration, building on the school’s well-established expertise in this rapidly growing legal practice. 

The new center will be led by George A. Bermann ’75 LL.M., the Jean Monnet Professor of European Union Law, the Walter Gellhorn Professor of Law, and director of European Legal Studies. The center will also tap the expertise of other faculty members and researchers, including Professors Alejandro Garro, Rob Smit, Thomas Johnson, and Ian Laird. Anthea Roberts, a visiting professor for the 2012–13 academic year and a noted authority on international investment law and arbitration, will also support the center.

Even before the center’s creation, Columbia Law School earned a reputation as a premier center for education, scholarship, and student activity in international arbitration law. Now the center will expand Columbia’s presence in the field through additional programs, including a distinguished speaker series, a workshop series drawing upon scholars and practitioners in residence, and a formal annual lecture in international arbitration.

“Columbia is in the enviable position of launching its new center with an outstanding array of programs and activities—and thus with an exceptionally high profile in international arbitration already in place,” Bermann said. “However, the center will not merely consolidate all of the Law School’s strengths; it will attract new energies and give impetus to fresh initiatives that make an already vibrant situs for education and research in international arbitration still more vibrant.”

International arbitration has been a major field of teaching and scholarship at Columbia Law School since the 1960s and 1970s, when Professor Henry P. deVries introduced the subject into the curriculum and authored some of the earliest pieces of scholarship on arbitration as an alternative form of international dispute resolution. The subject has been taught every year to an ever-increasing number of students, including LL.M. students from abroad. For many years thereafter, students explored international arbitration law under the guidance of Bermann and Professor Hans Smit, who passed away earlier this year. Smit was a leading scholar and practitioner in the fields of international arbitration and international procedure who taught at the Law School more than 50 years.   

In addition to a course on transnational litigation and arbitration, taught principally by Bermann, the Law School currently features courses in international investment law and arbitration, arbitration in Latin America, and advanced offerings in international commercial arbitration and international investment arbitration. Since its inception, Bermann has led the Center for European Legal Studies, and he will soon share the directorship with Anu Bradford, a scholar of international law and international relations who will join the Law School faculty in July. 

The new center will also draw upon the reputation and resources of the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment (VCC), which, under the leadership of Dr. Karl P. Sauvant, has staged important conferences on bilateral investment treaties as well as international investment law and arbitration, among other domains. Although Sauvant has stepped down from his role as the VCC’s executive director, he remains as a senior fellow, affording him more time to devote to research, writing, and teaching. Lisa Sachs '08, who has been with the VCC since its earliest days—including as associate director for the past three years—has succeeded Sauvant as director.

The Law School fields teams in all the major international arbitration moot court competitions, including the preeminent event, the Willem Vis International Arbitration Moot Court, held annually in both Vienna and Hong Kong. The Law School also partnered with the law faculty of the City University of Hong Kong three years ago to launch the world’s first and only combined international mediation and arbitration moot court competition, held every summer at City University.

The Columbia International Arbitration Association (CIAA), currently the largest law school student organization of its kind in the country, sponsors numerous lectures and other events every semester. The CIAA’s showcase event is the annual spring Columbia Arbitration Day, attracting some of the world’s outstanding international arbitration experts as speakers on topics of contemporary importance in international commercial and investment arbitration. The American Review of International Arbitration (ARIA), a student-edited scholarly journal, is fully produced at Columbia Law School, with Professors Bermann and Rob Smit as co-editors-in-chief. 

Global Arbitration Review, the leading arbitration law journal, in November 2011 included five Columbia Law School graduates in its list of the top 45 international arbitration practitioners under the age of 45. It also recently published an article on the 2012 Columbia Arbitration Day conference on arbitrating with a sovereign state.

Bermann is a recognized expert and scholar in the field of international arbitration, and he currently serves as chief reporter of the American Law Institute’s Restatement of the U.S. Law of International Commercial Arbitration. He also is co-author of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Guide on the New York Convention, which is the fundamental treaty basis for the recognition and enforcement of both agreements to arbitrate and arbitral awards themselves. Significant numbers of Columbia J.D. and LL.M. students have had the rare opportunity to work on both of these pathbreaking projects.