UCL Faculty of Laws


International Commercial Litigation (LAWS0253)

This module examines the rules which apply to resolve questions of private international law or the conflict of laws in international commercial litigation, with a focus on the English courts.

London is a leading centre for international commercial dispute resolution. Most of the cases brought before the English commercial courts involve one or more foreign parties, and many of these have little or no connection with the United Kingdom. Parties from around the world are drawn to litigate in England, seeking to take advantage of the expertise of English law, lawyers and courts. In the (somewhat provocative and controversial) words of the well-known English judge Lord Denning, “You may call this ‘forum-shopping’ if you please, but if the forum is England, it is a good place to shop in, both for the quality of the goods and the speed of service.” (The Atlantic Star [1973] QB 364, 382).

Many of the international commercial claims being brought in the English courts raise complex issues regarding whether, and if so how, the courts should resolve such cases. Any time that proceedings are commenced which have connections with more than one legal system, questions of private international law or the conflict of laws must be considered. The three main questions which arise are:

  1. Jurisdiction – whether the courts will hear a dispute (including how the courts take into account connections that the dispute may have with foreign legal systems, or the existence of parallel proceedings in a foreign court);
  2. Applicable law – which law or laws will be applied to resolve the dispute (perhaps counterintuitively, courts will often apply foreign substantive law if the case has its most significant connections with a foreign legal order); and
  3. The recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments – whether the courts will give effect to a foreign judgment which has already sought to determine the issues between the parties.

This module examines the rules and principles which apply to resolve these questions as they arise in international commercial litigation. It focuses on the rules which apply in the English courts, but also draws comparisons with the way these issues are dealt with in other legal systems. This module also examines some of the key ancillary orders which the courts may make in dealing with such disputes, including anti-suit injunctions (which seek to protect English jurisdiction by restraining a party from bringing foreign proceedings) and asset freezing orders (which seek to protect English jurisdiction or assist foreign courts by preserving assets against which a judgment might ultimately be enforced). While the focus is on the treatment of these issues in commercial disputes, it is not just litigation lawyers who need to understand these issues – transactional lawyers also need to understand and advise on litigation risk when drafting and negotiating contracts.

The module also features four ‘problem-focused’ classes, which examine some of the key contemporary issues in commercial litigation, drawing on the research interests of the teaching team. For example, one of these examines the increasing number of claims before the English courts against multinational companies, seeking to hold English parent companies responsible for the conduct of their foreign subsidiaries. Another looks at the impact of the internet on problems of private international law, including the complexities of dealing with online defamation. 

In examining these different issues, the module draws on a range of sources - the law which applies in England is a mixture of a common law rules, statues, retained EU law, and international conventions, and comparisons are also made with the approaches under other legal systems.

Module syllabus

  1. Bases of jurisdiction in civil disputes
  2. Jurisdictional discretion and stays of proceedings
  3. Parallel proceedings
  4. Anti-suit injunctions
  5. Recognition and enforcement of judgments
  6. Freezing injunctions
  7. Introduction to choice of law
  8. Choice of law in contract
  9. Choice of law in tort
  10. Substance and procedure
  11. Public policy and mandatory rules
  12. The pleading and proof of foreign law
  13. Problem focus 1: Claims against transnational corporations
  14. Problem focus 2: Unjust enrichment
  15. Problem focus 3: Party autonomy
  16. Problem focus 4: The impact of the internet

Statute books

  • E. Maganaris, ‘Core Statutes on Conflict of Laws’ (2018, Palgrave/Macmillan), or
  • M. George and A. Dickinson (eds), ‘Statutes on the Conflict of Laws’ (2015, Hart)

Text books

  • ‘Cheshire, North and Fawcett’s Private International Law’ (15th edn, 2017, Oxford University Press)
  • 'Clarkson & Hill's Conflict of Laws’ (5th edn, 2016, Oxford University Press)

Further reading

  • 'Dicey, Morris & Collins on the Conflict of Laws’ (15th edn, 2012, Sweet and Maxwell)
  • Hartley, ‘International Commercial Litigation: Text, Cases and Materials on Private International Law’ (3rd edn, 2020, Cambridge University Press)
  • Rogerson, ‘Collier’s Conflict of Laws’ (4th edn, 2013, Cambridge University Press)

Preliminary Reading

  • 'Cheshire, North and Fawcett’s Private International Law’ (15th edn, 2017, Oxford University Press), chapter 1
  • Clarkson & Hill, ‘The Conflict of Laws’ (5th edn, 2016, OUP), chapter 1

Key information

Module details
Credit value:45 credits (450 learning hours)
Convenor:Alex Mills
Other Teachers:Ugljesa Grusic
Teaching Delivery:Online Lecture 6x Face to Face Tutorials
Who may enrol:LLM Students Only


Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:

LLM in Litigation and Dispute Resolution

LLM in International Commercial Law

LLM in International Law

Practice Assessment:TBD
Final Assessment:

3 Hour Timed Online Examination (80%)

1,200 Word Coursework: Case Note (20%)