LAWYERS AS ARBITRATORS
In recent times arbitration practice has been viewed in some quarters as a "retirement home" for judges. Arbitrators and Judges are in common parlance adjudicators. Judges might appear at first sight to be ideal arbitrators. This is not necessarily so. Many is the judge who, on becoming an arbitrator, conducts hearings as if he were in court. The obvious disadvantage of so doing is that if an arbitration hearing is nothing more than a private court, with all the formality of the court and subject to the same strict procedures and cost structures, minus the powers of the court to make orders for attendance, security and discovery, the process has little that is alternative or worthwhile to commend it.
It is essential therefore that the lawyer who turns to arbitration practice, must, apart from acquiring a thorough knowledge and understanding of those rules specific to arbitration, adopt a different mind set. In particular, under the provisions of The Arbitration Act 1996, the arbitrator must adopt speedy inexpensive procedures that balance the requirements of due process with the needs of the parties and in particular the degree of complexity of the case and the amount of money that is at stake. It is desirable that an arbitrator have specialist knowledge and understanding in order to hear certain types of dispute, particularly where construction and maritime issues are being heard. That apart, arbitration practice is commended to lawyers prepared to adopt the correct mind set. Arbitration is a valuable adjunct to legal practice. The financial rewards tend to be modest but the personal satisfaction to be derived from engaging in the process should not be under estimated.
Training for construction adjudication practice is available for construction lawyers from the University of Glamorgan, the Academy for Construction Adjudicators, the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors and the Institution of Civil Engineers.
Training for general arbitration practice is readily available from, amongst others, the University of Glamorgan, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, the Nationwide Mediation Academy UK Ltd and the Nationwide Academy for Dispute Resolution UK Ltd. Extensive training is required to become an arbitrator. Examinations are rigorous and on par with the Legal Practice Course. Training is both time consuming and relatively expensive in the private sector. Pupilage is a prerequisite to panel listing.
Arbitration practice at present is a small select field and it is not easy to break into it. It is recommended that lawyers wishing to enter into this field first engage in as much client representation work as possible to establish a reputation within the industry. This is likely to be less of an issue if and when fast track internet paper only style arbitration hearings gain a foothold in the market. If, as is widely anticipated in some quarters, the demand for arbitration services expands rapidly, it will be far easier to penetrate into the market in the future than it has been in recent years. The global market has the potential to support far more arbitrators than are currently in practice.