Interview with Christopher Style QC, Deputy Chairman of the LCIA
As arbitration week is under way, Leaders League publishes its exclusive interview with highly regarded barrister Christopher Style QC, deputy chairman of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA).
Leaders League. What are the main trends shaping international arbitration?
International arbitration continues to be the dispute resolution method of choice. Parties are increasingly resorting to arbitration rather than court proceedings: the LCIA and ICC are reporting an ever-increasing number of arbitrations commencing.
The quality of an arbitral proceeding critically depends on the selection of its tribunal. In a three-member tribunal, each party usually nominates an arbitrator of their choice to form two of the three members, it is essential that they select arbitrators they have absolute confidence in and this will be their main criterion for selection. The third member is nominated by the co-arbitrators, perhaps in accordance with a list system. Further quality control is exercised by the institutions which appoint the arbitrators. It is essential that the talent pool from which arbitrators are selected is as deep as possible. While this has not historically been the case, there is now an increasing focus on enlarging the talent pool and making it more diverse, including with regards to age, ethnicity and gender. I hope we will continue to move in this direction. Some of these points are illustrated by the decision of the Court of Appeal in the Halliburton v Chubb case, which centred on a challenge to the appointment of an arbitrator who had failed to disclose that he had been appointed in other similar arbitrations. It highlighted the extent to which certain arbitrators receive multiple appointments from one party or law firm in related cases. There are many excellent arbitrators to choose from and it is important for parties to tap into that broader pool rather than repeatedly appoint one of the usual suspects, or ‘frequent flyers’ as they are sometimes referred to. Halliburton is on its way to the Supreme Court; watch this space!
There is also much talk around the duration of proceedings and their cost. The LCIA recently published statistics on how long an LCIA arbitration took on average, how much it costs and then compared this with similar data from other institutions. Arbitration should, of course, be quicker, cheaper and better!
As arbitral centers proliferate, how is the LCIA standing out in a crowded field?
There are new institutions springing up, some are quite competitive and self-promoting. However, I believe that institutions should be there to promote international arbitration, not just themselves, and work to ensure the best possible service is provided to their users.
All institutions are working hard to keep their rule book updated and to ensure that their offering is state of the art. The LCIA is reviewing its 2014 rules and a new rulebook will be emerging next year. The important thing is that institutions talk to their users and make sure that what they offer is a good service. The LCIA wants to ensure that it offers a streamlined process so that its tribunals are efficient as possible. It does have a few distinctive features including the fact that is has no requirement for terms of reference and no requirement for court scrutiny of awards.
More generally, London is a particularly popular arbitration seat because the Court system is supportive of arbitral awards and of arbitration generally. London has excellent facilities to go with this.
What does your role as Deputy Chairman of the LCIA’s board involve?
The LCIA operates through a Board of Directors which concerns itself with managing the business side of the institution, this includes the recruitment of caseworkers and finance specialists, organising educational events like seminars and lectures, and marketing activities which seek to promote the use of arbitration, such as speaking engagements and participating in events.
There is also a sub-committee of the board called the LCIA Court composed of 40-50 arbitration specialists from all over the world. This sub-committee makes decisions on arbitrations, including on the seat and challenges. They are also responsible for the rules governing arbitrations. As one of the Directors I try and focus on promoting the efficient running of the LCIA. The Board works closely with the Court. Judith Gill QC is President of the Court and sits on the Board. We work closely together.
What are the challenges that come with this role?
All members of the LCIA are international arbitration specialists and we try to figure out how best to improve the service the LCIA provides to the international arbitration community. There is a constant search for creative, thought provoking talking points within this community and one big challenge is to keep oneself up to date on these talking points and on trends in international arbitration generally.
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