University of Cambridge, Faculty of Law

International Commercial Litigation (LL.M.)


The English Courts enjoy a unique position in the resolution of international commercial disputes. Of the cases heard by the Commercial Court in London, most involve at least one foreign party and many concern disputes neither party to which is English. Partly explained by the expertise of the Court and English practioners in handling high-value, multi-jurisdiction disputes, this also reflects Londonís prominence as a financial centre, and the role of English law in governing cross-border transactions, the international flavour of English commercial litigation ensures that the Commercial Court is truly an international forum. Always a central feature of English law, the subject has acquired fresh significance in recent years. In the last two decades, the English courts have drawn on such traditional features of English law as the equitable nature of injunctive relief, and a discretionary approach to jurisdiction, to fashion on exceptionally sophisticated, and sometimes controversial, regime for handing complex multi-state litigation. At the same time, increasing regulation by EU instruments has transformed the treatment of such disputes, and placed the work of the Commercial Court at the centre of an evolving European private international law regime. The Commercial Courtís innovative approach places its work at the forefront of developments in private international law and international and civil procedure, while the European context gives rise to difficult and important questions about the possibilities of harmonisation in the resolution of commercial disputes.

The purpose of the Cambridge course in International Commercial Litigation is to examine the law and practice of commercial litigation in England, Its objective is to provide comprehensive, technical knowledge of the subject, combined with a working understanding of its practical, commercial context, and examination of underlying issues of principle and policy. Special emphasis is placed on matters of strategy and practice, as much as on the law itself, on the function of litigation procdedure as a framework within which parties may settle their differences, and on the importance of litigation risk to cross-border commerce. Teaching in the course is practical and interactive. Assignments, normally based upon one or two leading cases, will be set in advance of each meeting and supplemented by additional, follow-up reading, and small-group classes.

A prior knowledge of private international law or civil procedure is not required.

The structure of the course reflects the most important features of an international commercial dispute, with particular emphasis on issues concerning jurisdiction and interim relief. Both English lawís national rules, and those derived from EU law, are considered. The following topics receive special attention:

  1. The strategic and practical issues underlying transactional commercial disputes, especially concerning forum selection and choice of law, and the analysis of litigation risk.
  2. The jurisdiction of the English Courts, with particular reference to the control of parallel litigation, the effect of jurisdiction agreements, and the identification of the forum conveniens.
  3. The grant of injunctive relief, with particular reference to worldwide freezing injunctions, and anti-suit injunctions.
  4. The applicable law in commercial disputes, in particular the identification of the law applicable to contracts, and the application of foreign law by English courts.
  5. The procedural framework of commercial disputes, in particular such matters as the grant of negative declarations, summary and default judgments, and the enforcement of foreign judgments.