Paving the Way for International Arbitration

Having a campus near the state capitol in downtown Atlanta provides ample opportunity for Georgia State University students to learn through firsthand observation and experience. In the GSU College of Law, students and faculty not only can become involved in the legislative process, but are able to influence policy directly.

Professor Doug Yarn is the latest affiliate of GSU Law to get a piece of legislation pushed through the Georgia General Assembly. As a result of Yarn’s work with state senator and College of Law alum Bill Hamrick, Governor Nathan Deal recently signed into law Senate Bill 383, a bill that will help Atlanta become a center for international commercial arbitration.

“Passing this new legislation [gives] Georgia the most attractive legal environment possible for non-U.S. parties to arbitrate commercial disputes,” Yarn says. “It is part of a larger effort to attract international arbitrations to Georgia.”

Yarn has been working on legislation for alternative dispute resolution in Georgia since the late 1980s. At the time, Georgia was one of a handful of states that didn’t even have a modern statute regarding domestic arbitration, much less international arbitration. Yarn volunteered to draft both pieces of legislation and shepherded them through the General Assembly in 1988. The effort was a bit ahead of its time, Yarn says, since few lawyers in Atlanta were involved in international arbitration then.

Today international arbitration is a common practice area in Atlanta. In late 2010, Glenn Hendrix, managing partner of Arnall Golden Gregory, rounded up several local arbitration experts and formed the Atlanta International Arbitration Society (AtlAS), a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote Atlanta as a leading neutral site for the resolution of international commercial and investment disputes. Yarn, an AtlAS board member, led a study committee that examined the existing Georgia arbitration laws and drafted new legislation.

Most significantly, SB 383 separates the laws governing international and domestic arbitrations in Georgia. The new international law is patterned after the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law, which has become the international standard over the past 20 years; Yarn says this fact will be assuring and familiar to foreign lawyers advising their clients on where to arbitrate.

In addition to all of his work advocating Atlanta as a go-to spot for dispute resolution, Yarn, who teaches mediation and conflict resolution and is executive director of the GSU-housed Consortium on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, is making sure arbitration will be a large part of GSU’s future. With a planned International Arbitration Center in the yet-to-be-built new law school facility, the College of Law will expand its public mission and engage with both the local and the global legal community through arbitration.

“Almost every city seeking to establish itself as an international arbitral venue touts some facility that is designed to host arbitrations,” Yarn says. “The law school’s state-of-the-art International Arbitration Center will raise the city’s profile in the international arbitral community and symbolize the law school’s commitment to educating our students in this important and growing area of legal practice.”

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