Singapore has for the first time taken the top slot, along with London, as the most popular seat to conduct international arbitration, according to a new study.

Both locations were jointly ranked as the preferred places for bringing disputes in an annual study of 1,218 lawyers and arbitrators from 39 countries, in research conducted by Queen Mary University of London and law firm White & Case.

London and Singapore were chosen by 54 per cent of respondents who were asked to select their five preferred arbitration centres. It was the first time the Asian city state had taken first place.

International arbitration is an increasingly popular route for companies and sovereign states seeking to solve legal disputes instead of heading for the courtroom. It is attractive because arguments are heard behind closed doors, rather than in public, and parties can choose their own arbitrators — who are often retired judges or industry experts — to hear the case.

Besides London and Singapore, the study found that the top five also included Hong Kong, Paris and Geneva. In total 90 different locations were named by respondents, including Stockholm and New York.

The findings highlight Singapore’s rise as a top arbitration centre for resolving Indian and Chinese disputes in particular. Its growth has also been helped by Singapore’s government, which has heavily promoted the city state as a destination for dispute resolution.

The Singapore International Arbitration Centre said last month that numbers of new case filings in 2020 more than doubled to 1,080 from the previous year. Parties filing cases in Singapore came from 60 jurisdictions, including Hong Kong and Japan, and the cases involved disputes worth $8.5bn.

The London Court of International Arbitration said in January that it had handled 444 referrals in 2020, a 10 per cent increase compared with 2019. London’s continued popularity has not been dented by Britain’s withdrawal from the EU because arbitration awards and rulings are recognised in 150 countries and are able to be reinforced in the same way after Brexit.

However, the Queen Mary study showed that Paris appeared to have fallen in popularity with just 35 per cent of arbitration users selecting it as a preferred location, compared with 53 per cent in 2018.

The survey also showed that arbitral institutions were making greater efforts to improve the gender and ethnic diversity of their arbitrators. Most of the 1,200 respondents said that some progress has been made on gender diversity but just 31 per cent believed that there had been significant progress in ethnic diversity.