bratschi arbitration blog: Finding international arbitrators online – as easy as it sounds? Definitely not!
Finding the right arbitrators is essential. As different arbitrators can reach different conclusions with respect to a given case, the award in a party's favor may depend on said party finding and choosing the right arbitrators. Arbitral rules and local arbitration laws may only provide for standards for the appointment of arbitrators (e.g. their independence and impartiality), but do not prescribe according to which criteria to find which arbitrators. Historically, this has been an important task of a party's counsel, who - based on own experience - suggests valid candidates to his or her client. In recent years, however, we can observe more and more online tools offering the parties to substitute or supplement the counsel's suggestion. These tools are structured according to various search criteria with the aim of providing users with a simple and fast option of searching the right arbitrators for their dispute.
Criteria to choose international arbitrators
The criteria for choosing international arbitrators vary from case to case, but in principle arbitrators should be chosen who:
- are independent to the parties of the dispute;
- are impartial with respect to the subject matter of the dispute;
- have significant prior experience in international arbitration, ideally as arbitrators;
- are fluent in the language of the arbitration;
- have extensive knowledge not only of the substantive law at issue, but also of the applicable arbitral rules and in particular of the specific field in dispute (especially if highly technical matters are concerned);
- have a high integrity, intelligence and attention to detail;
- have sufficient time at their disposal to devote to the case in question; and
- have extensive case management skills to ensure an efficient procedure.
From this list it becomes clear that finding the right arbitrators is not an easy task. In the past and still today, the search is mainly conducted based on the experience of a party's counsel and its law firm. It goes without saying that this search, albeit efficient, nevertheless presupposes that the party and in particular its counsel have sufficient know how of the market. For less experienced parties and counsels, the search for an arbitrator is more cumbersome, which has led to the emergence of various online tools to find international arbitrators, such as:
Search Tool by the International Arbitration Institute (IAI)
Based in Paris, the IAI gathers practitioners and academics specializing in arbitration. It offers an advanced search option to identify a specific arbitrator as well as an alphabetical list of its members-arbitrators. Besides selecting the arbitrators' nationality and residence, the IAI tool lets parties limit their search results by selecting e.g. «Academic Position», «Experience as arbitrator», «Experience as counsel» or «Publications» in the full text search. The IAI search tool seems to be one of the most useful online tools to select arbitrators, but the full text search requires parties to put in the correct terms that actually appear in the arbitrators' online profile. This may prove difficult.
Association Suisse de l'Arbitrage (ASA)
ASA maintains a searchable database of arbitrators with over 1200 members - of whom more than 450 are from outside Switzerland. Parties can choose various criteria, such as legal background, field of expertise and nationality. Moreover, the search tool lets parties choose from many areas of specialization. It further allows parties to choose the preferred age of the arbitrators. From the available tools, the ASA database seems easiest to use.
ArbitralWomen's Multi-Criteria Selection Tool
By using ArbitralWomen's Multi-Criteria Selection Tool parties can find women from more than 40 countries in every part of the world practicing in dispute resolution as arbitrators, mediators, experts, adjudicators, surveyors, facilitators, lawyers, neutrals, ombudswomen, forensic consultants. Parties can choose multiple items in each field to further refine the search, e.g. «Type of practitioner» and «Practice Areas». As the ASA search tool, the ArbitralWomen's tool is fairly easy to use and gives parties access to a worldwide network of arbitral women.
Other online tools
There are many more online tools, e.g. the following freely accessible tools: the > CiArb Members Directory with a list of thousands of potential arbitrators and mediators; the > Clerks Room located in the UK to search arbitrators throughout England & Wales; the > Arbitration Law Roster of International Arbitrators that contains a list of arbitrators worldwide as well as an advanced search option, the > International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes' (ICSID) list of arbitrators and advanced search option for investment arbitrations and the > Singapore International Arbitration Centre's (SIAC) list of all the individuals, by country, who have been admitted to its roster of arbitrators. Other online tools are subscription-only resources such as the American Arbitration Association's (AAA) list of arbitrators and the Kluwer IAI Arbitration Tool, which however contains a list of the same arbitrators as the free IAI website.
In conclusion, the online search tools can be useful to get a first idea of potential international arbitrators. However, the prior experience and personal contacts of a party's counsel and its law firm are still more valuable as none of the search tools cover all criteria to choose arbitrators. In particular, it does not become apparent from the results of online search tools whether the arbitrators have the required attention to detail while still possessing the necessary case management skills to ensure an efficient procedure. Also, soft factors, such as e.g. taking into account cultural aspects of the parties or leadership skills, are not covered by any of the available search tool. Nevertheless, online search tools can serve as a good starting point in order to find from the many available arbitrators those from the respective field in dispute with the required language skills and knowledge in the subst antive law at issue and of the applicable arbitral rules. But caveat: the search tools can only be as good as the data they have been fed with. So, before relying on an online search tool, an attentive look should be given to the procedure of how data on the arbitrators listed were collected and used. Ultimately, the fine-tuning has to be done based on personal experience and knowledge of the market.