Keeping ADR in the limelight

The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. What is it, where is it and what does it do?

ALTERNATIVE forms of dispute resolution, such as mediation, may still be finding their way around the shipping industry but arbitration has been serving a purpose for many years. One organisation busy behind the scenes promoting arbitration as an alternative to litigation is the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. Founded in 1915 and incorporated in 1924, the Institute was granted a Royal Charter in 1979 and gained charitable status in 1990.

Membership

Today it boasts over 9,000 members in 84 different countries around the world. Its members are made up of arbitrators, aspiring arbitrators and those interested in arbitration and ADR, and hail from a wide variety of disciplines including law, shipping, construction, finance, insurance commodities, agriculture, accountancy and medicine.

Until recently there were two grades of membership of the Institute. This has recently been extended to three climbing from associate to chartered arbitrator. Associate membership is relatively simple as it requires completion of a Part I examination and an entry course. Those who wish to take on more study and exams can progress to member status. Fellow is the next stage involving an exam and interview. Passing the interview entitles the applicant to become a Chartered Arbitrator. There is also a Fast Track programme for practising and lawyers experienced in arbitration.

Local branches

With over 9,000 members at these four grades it can be a tall order to keep everyone in touch. Although based in London with a full-time secretariat, the Institute also has 20 branches throughout the UK (stretching from the Channel Islands to Scotland) and abroad (Australia, Bahrain, Bermuda, Cairo, Cyprus, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Malaysia, North America, Nigeria and Zimbabwe). Each branch runs courses and other events on a local basis to enable members to meet each other.

Education & training

Not only do these courses keep people in touch, they also form part of a key role the Institute plays in educating its members and their industries in the benefits of arbitration and alternative dispute resolution (ADR). In fact, each year the Institute runs between 50 and 60 domestic courses at conference centres around the UK and 10-15 on an international basis. All its courses are run by tutors highly experienced in the field of arbitration and ADR. "One of the ways we achieve our aims is to teach arbitration and to qualify arbitrators. We run a range of courses for people from all types of background whether it be commerce or local government," says Bruce Harris, chartered arbitrator and past chairman of the Institute. "The Institute seeks to educate people with a thorough grounding in law and practice in arbitration wherever they are," he adds.

Although originally set up to promote arbitration, "today this has broadened to include other areas of ADR such as mediation," says Harris. Also reflecting the changes in modern dispute resolution methods, the Institute has recently changed the name of its arbitration department to Disputes Resolution Services.

Services

Under the heading of Disputes Resolution Services, members can benefit from a variety of related services including consumer arbitration schemes, non-consumer arbitration services, a panel of mediators and mediation nomination service, a panel of adjudicators, an adjudication nomination service and recommended arbitration clauses. It also offers details of accredited mediators, each of which has demonstrated the knowledge and experience required to satisfy the Institute's criteria for accreditation.

As well as training and educating in the practice of arbitration, the Institute also handles the administration of arbitration schemes for consumer disputes on behalf of a number of bodies including the Mortgage Code Compliance Board, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), for which it handles disputes arising from package holidays. "It is good PR for organisations such as ABTA to offer good dispute resolution procedures," believes Harris.

In fact, the Institute currently runs over 130 such schemes. The latest two schemes to be set up were for Ford, which is an internet-based dispute resolution scheme, and for Tower Hamletts, the latter of which is designed to resolve disputes between the local council and the leaseholders. "Although many of these schemes are not used, they are of little cost to the company and provide a safety valve should a dispute arise," says David Griffiths, deputy secretary general of the Institute. These schemes also offer advantages for the consumer as they are not required to go to the defendant's court and as it is a documents only process they can handle to paperwork, such as completion of forms, from the comfort of their own home keeping their costs to a minimum too.

Adjudication is another area the Institute is actively involved in. Initially designed to suit the construction industry, which is "historically plagued by disputes" according to Griffiths, adjudication is a fast track dispute resolution process designed to resolve disputes within 28 days. As an increasing number of bodies, such as local authorities, are becoming involved in such adjudications, there is increasing demand for information and education on this less costly alternative to litigation.

Mediation

Mediation is another area in which the Institute seeks to educate through training. Its mediation courses tackle how mediation techniques can help resolve commercial disputes. Using role play, group exercises, video clips and formal lecturing the courses give its students a thorough knowledge of the mediation process including negotiation, agreement, confidentiality issues and accreditation procedures, etc.

As covered in a recent issue of The Maritime Advocate, the shipping industry is slowly coming around to appreciate the benefits offered by ADR routes such as mediation. Although, as Harris also points out, mediation to resolve shipping disputes can come up against a wide variety of obstacles. "The main problem is the need for the principal to be present at the mediation if a decision is to be reached. If a representative has been sent on behalf of the principal but he has no authority to make a decision, it is difficult for the mediation to be worthwhile."

However, the shipping industry is well represented at the Institute. There have been at least four distinguished maritime arbitrators as president or chairman of the Institute in the past 25 years. The London Maritime Arbitrators Association (LMAA) also suggests that candidates for its membership obtain fellowship status of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. "Those who have gone through the Institute's courses are commonly thought to be better equipped to deal with arbitrations," says Harris.

The Institute in the 21st century

With ADR gaining momentum in many industry sectors, the Institute certainly has a busy time ahead. Among its future projects is a drive to attract corporate members as currently the majority of members are individuals. "A lot of professional people within commerce do not know much about arbitration and mediation. By getting companies involved in services such as the consumer schemes, we can heighten awareness of the advantages of ADR," says Griffiths.

It is also busy producing guidelines for good practice in arbitration with input from all fields including shipping. This is part of a drive to ensure arbitrations are conducted at the highest level possible. Part of this initiative includes the idea of a certificate for chartered arbitrators. Arbitration in the UK is currently unregulated and requires no training. By issuing a certificate, chartered arbitrators would be required to keep their arbitration skills honed.

Although based in the City of London, the home of arbitration, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators has a truly global reach through its international branches. It is also embarking upon arbitration training courses in a number of new countries including the Czech Republic, Lebanon and Bhutan. However, at the heart of its role in the legal community the Institute will continue to "inform businesses and legal people of the merits of dispute resolution outside the courts," says Harris.