CIArb London Branch together with Queen Mary University London and the Young Canadian Arbitration Practitioners jointly hosted an online event on "Preparing Tomorrow’s Disputes Practitioner: The Future of Dispute Resolution Training".
The event was a member-hosted event as part of London International Disputes Week 2021.
The event was moderated by Marike Paulsson (Senior Advisor at Albright Stonebridge Group) and was conducted in the form of a lively discussion. The distinguished speakers included Nadya Berova (Legal Counsel, Africa and Middle East, at Barrick Gold Corporation), Dr Rémy Gerbay (Partner at MoloLamken LLP and Co-Director of an LL.M. in arbitration at QMUL), Alexandra Mitretodis (Associate at Fasken and a Director of the Vancouver International Arbitration Centre) and Dr Paresh Kathrani (Director of Education and Training at the CIArb).
The event started with Marike introducing the topic, focusing on the future of dispute resolution training. She explained that with the rapidly developing world of international arbitration including advanced technology, virtual hearings, extended use of mediation and other important developments, it is time to examine whether the education and training of disputes lawyers are keeping up with these changes.
Starting with the users’ perspective, Nadya explained that while the ultimate goal of an arbitration lawyer is to get to the arbitration hearing and obtain a favourable award, the perspective is very different looking through the clients’ eyes. For commercial clients, arbitrations are very expensive, and even if an award is favourable they can take a long time to enforce. Clients would like to see more focus on negotiation and mediation in lawyers’ training because these deliver preferred outcomes more efficiently.
Secondly, Nadya considered the need for more business-focussed training for law students and practitioners. It would be beneficial for junior lawyers to have a sound commercial understanding of their clients’ business and to be able to review financial statements and conduct statistical analysis. These skills can help the lawyers to examine the dispute from the client’s perspective and can be used in the negotiations.
Rémy then discussed how the gap between the theoretical world of academia and the business and financial skills required by clients can be bridged. He suggested that a holistic approach to legal education is necessary, and a departure from traditional learning methods. In the past, the emphasis was on legal knowledge but now such knowledge can be established online within a matter of seconds. Legal education must therefore be more focussed on “legal know-how”. The emphasis should be put on workshops, simulations, mooting and internships, as well as legal clinics where students can work pro bono under the supervision of trained lawyers on real-life cases. Such clinics have been focused predominantly on immigration law or consumer protection but small commercial arbitration cases could also be conducted in this way.
Continuing the theme of innovations in the legal training, Paresh considered what skills will be required from ADR professionals in the future. In his view, there will always be people who want to work in arbitration, but we need to take a step back and examine what skills are required to resolve and avoid disputes - and developing these skills is crucial for future arbitration practitioners.
Next, Alexandra discussed how arbitration practitioners can build their profile and develop their skills during the current period, while everything is online. She suggested joining one of the numerous young arbitration practitioner groups. These can help to build a professional network and provide invaluable opportunities for continuing education in the form of conferences, webinars and workshops. The courses that they run give participants a chance to improve their skills in a safe environment, under the direction of experienced practitioners. Additionally, involvement in these groups helps one to stay on top of the latest developments in international arbitration such as new cases, updates of arbitration rules and other hot topics. These groups also provide speaking and publishing opportunities for young practitioners at both regional and international levels. What can also be very helpful are the various mentoring schemes run by young members organisations such as the Young ICCA Mentoring Programme.
The discussion then shifted to the topic of virtual hearings. Nadia pointed out that, for clients, a virtual procedural hearing is of great benefit as it saves costs and time. However, when it comes to the main hearing there is still a bit of reluctance from parties to go entirely digital.
Alexandra added that one of the benefits of virtual hearings is the level playing field they created because all of the speakers have precisely the same space where they appear on the screen. She also suggested that virtual hearings can increase access to justice because virtual hearings are more cost-effective for smaller claims than in-person hearings.
Finally, Paresh predicted that the next big innovation and hot topic in the field of international arbitration would be cybersecurity, and we will see more development in this area in the coming years.
The event was accompanied by a very lively discussion in the webinar chat, indicating significant interest in the topic. View the recording of 'Preparing tomorrow's disputes practitioner' here.
Natalia Otlinger MCIArb
PR Officer at the London Branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators