Law: Arbitrate, don't litigate: Skilful solicitors can assist a process aimed at settling disputes more cheaply and quickly, says Sharon Wallach

SOLICITORS should make greater use of arbitration, according to Michael P Reynolds, a consultant solicitor with the Holborn, London firm Saunders Sobell Leigh & Dobin.

The advantages of arbitration to a range of businesses are not widely understood, nor is it considered often enough as a alternative to litigation. The legal profession has a strong role to play in making arbitration more effective in appropriate circumstances, Mr Reynolds contends. He is a professional indemnity arbitrator, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and has recently published a book on the subject in the Lloyd's List practical guides series. He wrote it in part, he says, to set right the perception of arbitration within the construction industry - that it takes too long and is too expensive. 'This contradicts the whole purpose of arbitration,' he says. 'A skilful arbitrator will cut through costs and time and diminish them considerably.'

The process can be aided by skilful solicitors who not only understand the law but are also experts in the relevant field. Work in arbitration brings positive benefits to solicitors too, Mr Reynolds says. With an eye on the forthcoming grant to solicitors of rights of audience in the higher courts, it is a good way for them to demonstrate their advocacy skills, he suggests. And because an arbitrator has the power of a High Court judge, he or she also gains experience of judicial skills. This would in some measure counter the oft-heard complaint about the dearth of solicitor judges.

Solicitors are also excellent managers of documents, he says, whose skills are useful in document-only arbitration. 'Why not then have oral hearings only on particular issues where the expert evidence is totally contradictory,' Mr Reynolds proposes. 'This would undoubtedly cut down on both costs and time.'

The impetus for future growth of the use of arbitration must be with lawyers, he says. 'We must do something about it. We virtually invented arbitration in this country and we certainly invented the procedures. The construction industry is crying out for ways of settling its disputes behind closed doors.' The answer is for lawyers to take arbitration on board as a friend, not an enemy. One way of facilitating this would be to spread its traditional net.

Arbitration has a long tradition in the construction and maritime industries, as well as in the international arena. It is, however, rarely used in other industries, although it could be a useful alternative to litigation for many: Mr Reynolds' suggestions include the newspaper industry, medicine, commodities, sale of goods, and information technology. Bearing in mind the Lord Chancellor's support for methods of alternative dispute resolution, Mr Reynolds believes arbitration could also take some of the economic burden off the courts system.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in