1. How did you get Involved in International Arbitration?

I have been a litigator for over twenty years. When I first started work in litigation, I thought disputes could only be resolved through the courts. I was aware of arbitration, but it was not something that clients were familiar with, or that their contracts required. Those factors have now changed.

As my litigation career progressed, clients became increasingly aware of arbitration as an alternative to resolving dispute through the courts. As a result, client contracts started to routinely require parties to arbitrate their disputes, particularly where the parties to the contract were from different jurisdictions. As a result of this, I started to become involved in international arbitration.

2. What differentiates International Arbitration from the other forms of dispute resolution?

International Arbitration has the benefits of confidentiality, flexibility and, often, savings in costs, as compared with litigation. Depending upon where the parties are based, International Arbitration often enables more efficient enforcement of the decision than a court award.

3. Describe your most memorable experience in International Arbitration? (Whether it be satisfying or challenging)

My most memorable International Arbitration experience is overcoming the challenge of the other side to the dispute trying to frustrate progress of the arbitration by refusing to pay their share of the arbitral costs. Unlike litigation before a court, parties to an arbitration are often expected to pay the costs of the arbitration on a joint and several basis as the arbitration progresses. Some arbitral bodies' rules provide a method to progress the arbitration, when one party will not pay. This arbitral body did not. Our client met the other side's costs to allow the arbitration to progress to conclusion in our client's favour. They were awarded their full costs, including those paid on behalf of the other side.

4. What's your best piece of advice for clients when it comes to International Arbitration?

I would always advise clients to an International Arbitration to treat it with the same respect as litigation. Most clients treat litigating through the courts with reverence, mainly due to the juxtaposition of familiarity with the forum – through countless books, movies and TV shows – but the unfamiliarity when you personally engage with the forum – in particular the solemn proceedings and unfamiliar protocols. On the other hand, International Arbitration can often feel more familiar and relaxed – more akin to a business meeting, particularly when conducted by telephone or video call. It is vitally important that the client ensures that they engage with the arbitration as closely and with the same seriousness of purpose as they would do in a litigation, or they will come off the worst in the encounter.

5. Name your International Arbitration top tip

Approach it without looking at it through the prism of a court litigation. The arbitrator has a duty to ensure that the dispute is resolved with the minimum of delay and expense. The flexibility of International Arbitration enables the arbitrator and the parties to do this. We should not feel burdened to follow the timetables and procedure adopted by the court - essentially litigating, but with the benefit of confidentiality. Those who are well advised will seize the benefits of the flexibility and seek to shape the most efficient and cost effective way to enable the arbitrator to resolve the dispute fairly.


Craig Watt

Partner & Solicitor Advocate