We speak with Dr Jacomijn van Haersolte-van Hof who has replaced Adrian Winstanley as director general of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA). She is the first woman to be appointed to the role and took up her post on July 1, 2014.
What are the key challenges facing you as the new director general of the LCIA?
I am taking over at a time when the LCIA is already a strong organisation. It saw an enormous amount of growth during the 17 years of Adrian Winstanley’s leadership. Now is the time to consolidate what has already been achieved and to develop plans for the next five to ten years. I need to focus on our priorities and get to grips with the structures and procedures already in place.
Our strategy will be to focus on the regions and industry sectors where we are strong. For example, South Korea is an important area to develop. The Seoul International Dispute Resolution Centre opened in May, and to support the strong links with the LCIA we will shortly have a secondee in place. Our interest in South Korea ties in with our industry sector focus; in that region shipbuilding will be a particular focus. The energy industry also offers lots of opportunities.
In terms of areas of geographical interest, obviously London is our home and we have successful arrangements in place in India (LCIA India), Dubai (DIFC LCIA Arbitration Centre) and Mauritius (LCIA–MIAC Arbitration Centre). We have a growing number of users in Russia and America too and I want to focus on expanding our services in those countries. I will be travelling a lot over the coming months, meeting our users and learning more about what they want from the LCIA. My next trip will be to Delhi, a city I love.
Your appointment coincides with the launch of the new LCIA rules. What are the most important changes?
The new rules will be launched on October 1 and I am busy speaking to our stakeholders about the changes that have been made. One of the most important changes is the introduction of the new emergency arbitrator process. Although there may be few cases initially where an emergency arbitrator is appointed, in the right case it is a very useful tool.
I’m aware that there has been some reluctance to see the value of appointing an emergency arbitrator when you have the option to go to court for quick relief. As a Dutch practitioner I saw this in the Netherlands when emergency arbitrator provisions were introduced more than 20 years ago. The courts there are also very supportive but I have seen how an emergency arbitrator can assist and have sat as an emergency arbitrator myself. It is exciting work.
An emergency arbitrator can sometimes deal with the big issues and take out the sting in a case, so that settlement is possible. On other occasions there are different circumstances and a series of supportive measures are needed. Usually a new panel will be appointed to deal with the remainder of the arbitration proceedings, but on one occasion when I sat as emergency arbitrator both parties agreed to appoint me as chair of the panel for the whole process. That’s not always going to be appropriate but it allows a continuity that the parties would not see if they went first to court and then to arbitration. I am looking at creating a pool of emergency arbitrators to draw on quickly when the need arises.
How do you see the role of experts in international arbitration developing?
I am interested in the role that experts play in international arbitration. Expert evidence, particularly on quantum issues, plays an important part in dispute resolution. Having a pool of good experts who understand arbitration is essential to the successful functioning of the arbitration process. I want to see the LCIA strengthen its relationship with experts.
I can see the use of experts on panels of arbitrators becoming more common over time. Including an arbitrator with technical expertise can bring real benefits to an arbitration process. Their knowledge of technical issues can save time and costs in the proceedings and facilitate the deliberations of the whole panel.
There are also a number of provisions giving tribunals the power to manage arbitration proceedings better. I will be looking closely at how the LCIA monitors the work of tribunals to ensure that parties receive an excellent service. The introduction of arbitrators’ statements of availability will assist.
You spoke at the ICCA conference in Miami recently on diversity in international arbitration. What do you think can be done to encourage more diversity in arbitration appointments?
This is something that concerns me and there is surprisingly little data available. Many national courts publish statistics on the diversity of their judiciary, but the criteria that they use to put together their reports vary. Gender is always an issue but different approaches are taken to the importance of recording data on, say, age, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. The LCIA has reported statistics on the gender of its arbitrators for a number of years now, something I have not seen in other institutions.
The number of first-time appointments is also recorded in the LCIA’s annual report. We are all aware of the conservative approach taken by many clients and lawyers who want to appoint an arbitrator with an established reputation rather than risk appointing a well-regarded potential arbitrator with no track record. It is a difficult area to address. Institutions can help by seeking to encourage a pool of talented arbitrators from diverse backgrounds.
Lawyers can also assist by taking a conscious look at the diversity of the lists of arbitrator names they put forward for appointments. I am aware that some clients, particularly those in the UA, are raising this issue and some have diversity criteria in place to control the composition of their legal teams.
If you could give some advice to young lawyers starting out in the field of international arbitration, what would it be?
First, I would say study international arbitration. That wasn’t an option to those of us who entered the profession 20 years ago but there are some great masters courses available now. Then I would say look at what other skills you can bring to the process – consider a degree in economics or engineering. An MBA would also be very useful.
I would seek opportunities to sit as legal secretary to a tribunal. I strongly believe that this experience is invaluable to junior lawyers. It also makes the arbitration process more efficient. This is something I want to discuss with LCIA stakeholders, so that more of these opportunities can be created. Another option is to get experience as an intern or secondee at an international arbitration institute. The LCIA already offers these opportunities.
On top of everything else, you need the right personality to succeed in arbitration. You need to be capable and resilient, ready to stand on your own two feet.