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YMG International Arbitration Conference, Dubai

8 May 2017 YMG News
By Robert Stephen and Ronan O'Reilly

The first of CIArb's three Young Members Group (YMG) international arbitration conferences exploring Young Perspectives on Civil and Common Law in International Arbitration took place on 7 March 2017 at the One&Only Royal Mirage in Dubai. Over 80 young members converged from all corners of the world to attend the conference and discuss the topic.

The conference was opened by Robert Stephen, Chair UAE CIArb YMG and recently appointed Registrar of the DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre (Dubai).

In his opening remarks, Robert spoke about the work of the YMG in the Asia and MENA region and noted that Dubai was the ideal place for the CIArb to launch a global conference series. Situated at the crossroads of Asia and the MENA region, Dubai is one of the few jurisdictions where common law and civil law systems coexist and young members schooled in both legal traditions work seamlessly side by side.

Dubai was chosen to host the first YMG conference of 2017 to coincide with the launch of the CIArb's flagship international arbitration conference series examining The Synergy and Divergence Between Civil Law and Common Law in International Arbitration in Dubai on 8 and 9 March 2017.

The YMG conference theme was considered from the Asian and Middle Eastern perspective with two further conferences scheduled to take place in Johannesburg (19 and 20 July 2017) and Paris (6 and 7 December 2017) in order to explore African, European and American viewpoints.

In her keynote speech, the President of CIArb, Professor Dr Nayla Comair-Obeid, described some of the practical difficulties brought about by the divergence between common and civil law traditions and spoke of her promise to bring professionals from the two schools and diverse backgrounds together to address the widely-recognised, but as yet unresolved issue.

She highlighted the role of young members in tackling these difficulties and encouraged everyone (as the future leaders in the field) to play an active part in the discussion. Professor Comair-Obeid went on to say that the role of education is pivotal to this and institutions such as CIArb are well-placed to provide young practitioners with a globally recognised education focused on gender equality, cultural diversity and the need for cultural sensitivity.

According to Professor Comair-Obeid:

"[t]olerance between cultures, civilisations and people is essential to progress and this cannot be reached without education. By encouraging the development of knowledge in dispute resolution and by favouring cultural mixture, CIArb is both a hub and vehicle of tolerance".

The panel discussions at the conference comprised young practitioners from both the private and public sectors and common and civil law backgrounds in order to fully examine the common/civil law dichotomy.

The first panel, moderated by Benjamin Hopps, Senior Associate, Hebert Smith Freehills LLP (Dubai), opened with a discussion on privilege in international arbitration with a particular focus on party expectations.

To set the scene, Melissa Quai-Currie, Partner, Hadef & Partners (Dubai), explained what is meant by privilege in the international arbitration context and discussed how parties' differing expectations can often lead to disputes. Rhys Monahan, Associate, Clyde & Co LLP (Dubai) went on to advocate against the application of privilege rules in international arbitration.

Sally Kotb, Senior Associate, Baker & McKenzie Habib Al Mulla (Dubai) then described the position in the UAE and talked about some of the difficulties faced by tribunals in the wider Gulf region. To conclude, Ronan O'Reilly, Associate, White & Case LLP (London) offered some thoughts on the consequences of applying, and not applying rules of privilege in international arbitration.

The topic of non-compensatory damages in international arbitration was the focus of the second panel discussion, which was moderated by Sadaff Habib, Attorney Gemstone Real Estate Development LLC (Dubai).

Jeffrey Sham Che Fai, Barrister and Mediator, Andrew Liao SC's Chambers (Hong Kong) kicked off the discussion by exploring the common law position by reference to case law.

He was followed by Antonia Birt, Associate, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP (Dubai), who offered a comparative law perspective, discussing some of the similarities and differences by reference to commonly selected common and civil laws. Beau McLaren, Partner, Holman Fenwick Willan Middle East LLP (Dubai), then went on to talk about non-compensatory damages in international arbitration from an arbitrator's point of view - ‎including remit, quantification, and enforceability. Finally, to round off the discussion, John Gaffney, Senior Associate, Al Tamimi & Company (Abu Dhabi), talked about non-compensatory damages from the investment arbitration perspective.

The panel discussions were lively and very well received with a number of contributions from young members in the audience.

The conference wrapped up with a sofa session with in house counsel moderated by Anna Wren, Senior Associate, Herbert Smith Freehills LLP (Dubai), discussing the question: What do in house counsel want from the arbitral process?

Representatives from Dubai Multi Commodities Centre Authority, ENGIE, Hewlett Packard, and the DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre (amongst others) talked about the importance of ensuring arbitration proceedings are effective, efficient and flexible and, of course, keeping a keen eye on costs!

In concluding the conference, Ronan O'Reilly, Vice-Chair CIArb YMG said:

“[t]he conference highlighted some of the key areas of synergy and divergence between the civil law and common law legal systems. Most importantly, it generated debate about how best to achieve greater uniformity on issues where there is no common approach. It is imperative that this debate continues in order to help young practitioners navigate the complexity of foreign legal systems and to ensure that international arbitration continues to meet parties’ expectations.”

The organising committee comprising Amanda Lee (Chair CIArb YMG),  Ronan O'Reilly (Vice-Chair CIArb YMG), Robert Stephen and Noor Kadhim thank everyone who participated and made the event a success, and they look forward to welcoming young members to the second conference in the series to be held in Johannesburg in July 2017.