Arbitration in the UK operates in many different sectors – some commercial + some social. Within each sector the practise of arbitration has emerged with quite different characteristics – all brought together + given consistency by the application of English law + the UK Arbitration Act.
Some sectors are dominated by trade arbitrators + some by lawyer arbitrators. Both have their strengths + weaknesses which we have discussed in this column on previous occasions. Today I want to focus on sectors that give primacy to the trade over the lawyers for their source of the arbitrators that exercise decision making responsibility. The arbitrators, in the main, come from commerce and not the law.
Such trade arbitrators have expertise in their knowledge + understanding of the trade – the norms, the conventions, the day-to-day practices. They are appointed to arbitrations because of this specialism. It is invaluable in the decision-making process and gives specific character to the arbitral process in the trade.
But there are “buts”. The trade excels in trade matters but the arbitrators have to acquire experience of legal issues, legal terms, legal expression and there are two reasons for this requirement – first, arbitration is a legal procedure and, second, the arguments placed before arbitrators are often written by lawyers who have their own norms, practices and day-to-day forms of expression + communication. Businessmen/women emerge with one set of norms + lawyers with another set. They are not in conflict with each other but they are different and this has implications for the conduct of arbitrations.