Rome and Milan in Italian Arbitration

As will be clear from previous posts, one of the consistent things that has come out across the jurisdictions in which interviews have taken place is the central role that geography plays in the development of arbitration careers. No matter how “online” today’s world is, arbitration communities still function very much through personal connections. As a result, being geographically isolated from an active arbitration community can significantly complicate developing an active arbitral practice, no matter how talented you might be.

One of the interesting features of arbitration in Italy, then, is the presence of two cities with prominent arbitration practices, Milan and Rome, that are a reasonable distance apart. What makes this situation interesting is not simply that there are two of them – Italy is certainly not the only country with more than one city that has a recognised group of arbitration practitioners – but because of the insights the situation can provide into how arbitration communities function. Does the geographic separation mean that there are two separate communities? Are they competitors? Does one dominate the other? And so on.

The answer that developed out of interviews with practitioners in both cities is best encapsulated in a phrase offered by one interviewee: “a Milan-Rome community in Milan”. That is, both cities have recognised groups of practitioners, but while as a practical matter the practitioners in Rome will interact most often with other practitioners in Rome (and those in Milan with others in Milan), practitioners in each city consistently saw themselves as part of a single arbitration community that stretches across both cities, with no insider/outside dynamic if someone from one of the cities goes to an event organised in the other.

However, the “in Milan” part of the phrase is also important, as practitioners in Rome, no matter how prominent, openly acknowledged that part of successful networking required them to travel to Milan with some regularity. The single direction of this travel is significant. Individuals from Milan might travel to Rome for a particular reason, or just to maintain contacts there, but no respondent in Milan expressed a pressure to do so as part of ordinary networking. On the other hand, interviewees in Rome were consistent in their view that they needed to make an active effort to be present in Milan.

Despite having two prominent arbitration cities, then, Italy nonetheless reinforces the notion that there is a tendency for national jurisdictions to develop a single “hub” for arbitration (e.g. Sweden – Stockholm, England – London, Italy – Milan). The Italian situation emphasises that the underlying reality of that hub may be more complex than everyone being present in a single city, but it also raises questions that connect directly with the efforts of a number of “second cities” to develop as arbitration hubs (e.g. Edinburgh, Barcelona). To the degree that a successful arbitration hub depends on an active network of professionals, rather than just on available infrastructure and supportive courts, is the Milan/Rome tandem community a more likely route to success than active competition between separate hubs?

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