What happens if an arbitrator has a fantastic reputation, but no one knows about it?
The title of today’s blog post comes from an article on improving access to information about female arbitrators, but it is equally applicable to all new entrants to the arbitration field.
In relation to energy expertise, how can an arbitrator with a fantastic reputation make sure people know about it?
Say I had just concluded a multi-million dollar dispute relating to ultra deep water drilling and requiring an in depth understanding of the mechanics of free-standing hybrid risers and FPSOs (floating production storage and offloading vessel). Say I had conducted that arbitration promptly, efficiently and fairly, issuing a reasoned 40 page award within 30 days of the close of proceedings. Say that I had implemented certain procedural orders which had streamlined the procedure and clarified the pleadings. Say that the hearing had concluded early due to the efficient way the evidence had been presented. How would anyone outside the confines of the conference room and the participants in the arbitration ever know about it?
According to its mission statement, Arbitrator Intelligence "aims to promote transparency, fairness, and accountability in the selection of international arbitrators by increasing and equalizing access to critical information about arbitrators and their decision making.” It acknowledges that when parties say they want “expertise” in an arbitrator, it is almost impossible to quantify what they mean by that. Arbitrator Intelligence intends to dis-aggregate the abstract qualities of “expertise” into objective, measurable data points. For example, to paraphrase a few questions from the Arbitrator Intelligence Questionnaire: Did the arbitrators grant document production? Did they ask questions that demonstrated familiarity with the record? Based on data collected through the Arbitrator Intelligence Questionnaire, Arbitrator Intelligence will also be able to determine the overall duration of arbitrations and time to issue the award, and identify other valuable objective data. It really will be a Brave New World once Arbitrator Intelligence is up and running. But there is a long way to go before that stage is reached.
In the meantime, how can an arbitrator who is an expert in an industry make others aware of that expertise?
Here are my musings (in no particular order):
Remain close to the energy industry. In my 11 years in Houston every dispute I was involved in touched the energy industry in some shape or form, almost every person I interacted with was linked to the energy industry. I try to maintain my energy network assiduously through social media and conference attendance.
Subscribe to industry journals and maintain your knowledge. Practising exclusively as an arbitrator means that you are plunged into new cases which may require you to get up the learning curve on a new facet of a well known industry or even an industry which is completely unknown to you, such as a recent arbitration I was involved in which related to the manufacture of brake blocks. Try to maintain your existing knowledge, even when you are absorbed in a new case.
Promote yourself as a speaker at energy-focused conferences, notable arbitration conferences such as the ITA/IEL/ICC conference in Houston in January are well worth attending.
Publish on industry-specific topics. We all know that writing takes a huge amount of time, but once you have produced a paper, make sure you extract the most possible value from it, by promoting it on social media and to your wider network. Although Twitter is not widely used by arbitrators (yet) it can be an easy tool to circulate links to content.