A way to square the vicious circle? The ArbEx Scheme
Perhaps more than any other profession I can think of, the arbitration community is unwilling to appoint arbitrators without experience as arbitrators but it is fiendishly difficult to get experience, as it’s almost impossible to get an appointment without experience. And so the vicious circle goes on.
The older generation, it must be said, did not face this kind of scrutiny. One article I read years ago has stuck with me. In that article, the late William Tetley QC recounted that in 1982 he was approached by two acquaintances to act as chair of a major ICC arbitration, he “rushed to the McGill Law Library to ask what the ICC was”, he “got the Rules, read them in the taxi coming back, found them to be brief, concise and the epitome of common sense”. His appointment as chair of the tribunal was confirmed. Different times.
But here we are in 2019 with arbitration maintaining its popularity (historic trends show year on year increases in most cases), although we must remember that the absolute numbers are still small. The ICC recorded 800 new cases in 2017 and the LCIA recorded 285 - not a lot of appointments to go round.
New entrants to the market seeking their first appointment do now have an option that was not available to them before. Yesterday, Hunt ADR, the largest provider of arbitration services in the UK, announced an innovative scheme to help aspiring arbitrators to gain that elusive experience.
Full information on the ArbEx scheme is available here. The scheme will provide successful applicants with up to 10 appointments in documents-only arbitrations across a range of arbitration schemes under English law. ArbEx will subsequently provide written feedback to each participant on the quality of their awards.
Yes, that first appointment might not be as chair of a major ICC arbitration tribunal, but those days are behind us. It seems to me that the ArbEx scheme has just made the first rung on the long ladder to becoming an arbitrator a little more accessible.