On 18 July 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 766, which amends the California International Arbitration and Conciliation Act (Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 1297.11 et seq.) to expressly allow out-of-state and non-US lawyers to represent and assist parties in international arbitration or related proceedings seated in California. Senate Bill 766 brings clarity to the issue of non-California attorneys participating in international arbitration and related proceedings within the State of California.
The issue of non-California counsel participating in international arbitral proceedings seated in California has been a subject of some confusion since the 1998 California Supreme Court decision in Birbrower, Montalbano, Condon & Frank v. Superior Court. In Birbrower, the California Supreme Court ruled that out-of-state attorneys were not authorized to represent clients in domestic arbitral proceedings seated in California without a pro hac vice application in association with a California-licensed attorney.
The practice of allowing out-of-state counsel to participate in international arbitral proceedings seated within their borders has been widely accepted by key US (e.g., New York) and foreign jurisdictions (including England and Wales, France, Italy, Switzerland, Singapore and Hong Kong). Since Birbrower, California has been characterized by some as being hostile to the participation of non-California lawyers in international arbitration.
While the criticism is somewhat unwarranted — particularly because foreign counsel frequently do represent parties in international arbitral proceedings seated in California — the new bill resolves the issue. With Senate Bill 766, California consolidates its efforts to become a leading market for international arbitration.
For more information about California Senate Bill 766 and its impact on international arbitrations seated in the state, please contact your Ally Law lawyer.