Herbert Smith Freehills was pleased to be the principal sponsor of a major convention held at the London Guildhall on 29 October on ‘Shaping the Future of International Dispute Resolution’. The occasion brought together over 150 leading stakeholders involved in ADR from over 20 countries – including corporate users, ADR providers, advisors, the judiciary, legislators and educators.

Hosted by the Corporation of the City of London, and with keynote addresses from the Lord Mayor of London, Fiona Woolf, and Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, the convention was organised with the cooperation of over 20 of the world’s leading arbitration and ADR organisations.

The focus of the convention was to identify whether there is a gap between what corporate users need from international mediation and arbitration and what leading ADR service providers including dispute resolution institutions are delivering – and, if so, how that gap can be bridged.   Almost half of the 30 panellists contributing their views were corporate users, including senior in-house counsel from GE, Shell, Akzo Nobel, Standard Chartered Bank, Hinduja Group, BT, Orange and many others across a broad range of sectors.

Importantly, the occasion also provided an opportunity for the audience to contribute their views in a structured format. Delegates used individual voting keypads to register their responses to various propositions throughout the sessions, with the results displayed instantly for discussion. In addition, iPads allowed delegates to post and read live comments and submit questions for the panellists.  Given the paucity of research data in this area, the information gathered will serve as useful intelligence for the future development of ADR initiatives both in the UK and globally.

Lord Dyson in his introductory remarks touched upon four key themes which he asked the ADR community to take into account in their consideration of what was needed to drive forward the effective use of ADR mechanisms for international dispute resolution:

  • the risk that if the most popular ADR mechanisms (particularly mediation) become too procedurally regimented and litigious they may lose some of their key advantages (particularly flexibility and costs minimisation);
  • the geographical element – that is, the need for the promotion of international dispute resolution mechanisms to be a truly global promotion, extending to jurisdictions where they remain relatively unused (recognising that one of the key obstacles to the use of ADR mechanisms in any particular case is often one or both parties’ unfamiliarity with them);
  • the key role that technology must play (noting the growing role of online dispute resolution); and
  • the need to apply the principles and procedures that have been developed in the context of alternative dispute resolution to the wider concept of alternative dispute avoidance.

Herbert Smith Freehills London disputes partner and Head of ADR Alex Oddy moderated the lead-off panel on what corporate users need from international dispute resolution procedures.  London Financial Services Regulation partner Hywel Jenkins later shared perspectives on using mediation in contentious regulatory proceedings and the day was run by Tom Leech QC from the London office’s Advocacy Unit as Convention Facilitator.

The data and comments gathered are now available on the International Mediation Institute’s website at http://imimediation.org/shaping-idr-convention-2014  One of key observations to emerge from the data is the existence of a substantial mismatch of perceptions between different categories of stakeholders on several topics.  There were some stark differences between corporate users and ADR providers – for example, 40% of ADR providers attending thought that the dispute resolution institutions have been providing innovative solutions to respond proactively to users’ needs, whereas only 8% of users agreed.  The corporate users strongly favoured earlier and greater use of mediation and the use of bespoke ADR processes to resolve international disputes.

The Convention concluded by voting overwhelmingly in favour of creating a new international platform that would enable corporate users to express their needs in respect of international dispute resolution more clearly in the future. It also called for a series of co-ordinated global conferences based on the London convention but adapted to local and regional circumstances.

For more information on the convention contact Alex Oddy  or Jan O’Neill  of our London office.