The NSW Young Lawyers International Law Committee held the first seminar of the inaugural International Negotiation & Dispute Resolution Series on 7 July 2016 at the Australian Disputes Centre on the topic of international commercial arbitration.

The panel speakers consisted of Deborah Tomkinson (Secretary-General of ACICA), Daisy Mallett (Senior Associate at King & Wood Mallesons) and James Morrison (Consultant at Allens Linklaters), with Erika Williams (Senior Associate at McCullough Robertson) as chairperson.

Drawing from their personal experiences in cross-border disputes, the panel members offered insightful discussion into the practical realities of working in international commercial arbitration and career advice for young lawyers, including the benefits of postgraduate studies, language skills, international and domestic work experience, graduate traineeships, and the value of having a genuine interest in this area of practice.

There was particular interest in the importance of cross-cultural communication in resolving commercial disputes and drafting effective dispute resolution clauses prior to a dispute to ensure a smooth conflict resolution process. The seminar conveyed the dynamic nature of international commercial arbitration and the various pathways into a career in this field.

The speakers shared their thoughts on the effects of differing cultural backgrounds on dispute resolution; the unanimous view being that in the international setting, arbitration is far from being immune to differences in the cultural and legal backgrounds of the arbitrators and the parties. At the very heart of international arbitration, the objective is to avoid the clash of cultural differences where counsels’ role is to consider these differences, adequately prepare and ensure that their client realise these differences. The overall message being that we all stand to benefit from understanding each other’s traditions.

The interactive discussion allowed the participants to appreciate the importance of drafting suitable arbitration clauses, understanding the laws of the place where enforcement of an award is sought, the role of the Model Law and the New York Convention.

The next installment of the Series will be held on 28 July 2016 on the topic of negotiating international contracts.

Author: Deborah White, Co-ordinator, NSW Young Lawyers International Law Committee