On 5 April 1883, the Court of Common Council of the City of London set up a committee to draw up proposals for the establishment of a tribunal for the arbitration of domestic and, in particular, of trans-national commercial disputes arising within the ambit of the City.
As The Law Quarterly Review (“LQR”) was to report at the inauguration of the tribunal a few years later:
"This Chamber is to have all the virtues which the law lacks. It is to be expeditious where the law is slow, cheap where the law is costly, simple where the law is technical, a peacemaker instead of a stirrer-up of strife.” *
Commercial interests were also seeking the adjudication of their disputes by their own; by a tribunal precisely familiar with the area of business in which the dispute had arisen, though this was not, of itself, a new idea. As the same LQR report commented:
"We have the germ of it …. in the old Court of Pied Poudre, in the aldermen arbitrators of the fifteenth century, in the committees of the Stock Exchange, Corn Exchange, Coal Exchange."
In 1884, the committee submitted its plan for a tribunal that would be administered by the City Corporation, with the co-operation of the London Chamber of Commerce. However, though the plan had arisen out of an identified and urgent need, it was to be put on ice pending the passing of the Arbitration Act of 1889.
In April 1891, the scheme was finally adopted and the new tribunal was named “The City of London Chamber of Arbitration”. It was to sit at the Guildhall in the City, under the administrative charge of an arbitration committee made up of members of the London Chamber and of the City Corporation.
The Chamber was formally inaugurated on 23 November 1892, in the presence of a large and distinguished gathering, which included the then President of the Board of Trade. Considerable interest was also shown both by the press and in legal commercial circles.
In April 1903, the tribunal was re-named the "London Court of Arbitration" and, two years later, the Court moved from the Guildhall to the nearby premises of the London Chamber of Commerce. The Court's administrative structure remained largely unchanged for the next seventy years.
In 1975, the Institute of Arbitrators (later the Chartered Institute) joined the other two administering bodies and the earlier arbitration committee became the "Joint Management Committee", reduced in size from the original twenty four members to eighteen, six representatives from each of the three organisations. The Director of the Institute of Arbitrators became the Registrar of the London Court of Arbitration.
In 1981, the name of the Court was changed to “The London Court of International Arbitration", to reflect the nature of its work, which was, by that time, predominantly international. New and innovative rules were also adopted that year.
In 1985, not far short of its centenary, new and innovative rules were promulgated and the LCIA Arbitration Court was established, marking the coming of age of the LCIA as an international institution.
In 1986, the LCIA became a private not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee, and fully independent of the three founding bodies. It then set about consolidating its position in the international arena, under the guidance of Sir Michael Kerr, the first President of the LCIA Court, and Bertie Vigrass, the first Registrar of the independent LCIA.
Sir Michael Kerr's illustrious successors in the role of President of the LCIA Court have, to date, been Professor Dr Karl-Heinz Böckstiegel (1994 - 1998), L Yves Fortier CC OQ QC (1998 - 2001), Professor Dr Gerold Herrmann (2001 - 2004), Jan Paulsson (2004 - 2010), Professor William W Park (2010 - present).
The current arbitration rules of the LCIA were promulgated in 1998 and are currently under review.
* (1893) IX LQR 86