Amanda Lee FCIArb

Why have you decided to specialise in ADR? What attracted you to this area of law?

I specialize in dispute resolution in general so it was perhaps inevitable that I would cross paths with ADR. Every form of ADR has its benefits and disadvantages. I appreciate the flexibility that ADR affords to my clients and its significant potential. ADR can achieve results that litigation may not be able to produce, such as apologies or the amicable resumption of commercial relations.        

For example, Construction adjudication provides scope for a swift decision, enabling projects to stay on track. Mediation helps parties to gain perspective on their dispute, often avoiding significant legal costs and management time by leading to an amicable (or not) compromise. Arbitration allows parties to tailor their dispute resolution process to meet their needs and the New York Convention makes it particularly suitable for the resolution of global disputes. The list goes on.

What do you consider as the biggest challenge for ADR in the future?

It is vital that ADR retains its legitimacy. A significant part of such legitimacy is making sure that those tasked with resolving and assisting in the resolution of disputes are representative of the parties to those disputes.

Significant strides have been made on the gender diversity front albeit following a quarter century of work by organizations such as ArbitralWomen and initiatives such as The Pledge, but progress remains depressingly slow on other diversity frontiers.  

Increased diversity has the potential to improve public perception of both commercial and investment arbitration. Diverse decision makers bring different experiences to their decision making and it is parties who will ultimately benefit.

The next generation of arbitrators must not only be up to the task of resolving the significant volume of disputes that are likely to be heading down the tracks; they must also better reflect those whose disputes they must decide. 

If you had a time machine, what piece of advice would you give to yourself at the beginning of your career in ADR?

The world of international arbitration, like the TARDIS (a well-known time machine from Doctor Who), is much bigger on the inside. It is difficult to fully appreciate this when you are at the beginning of your career. You stand a far better chance of understanding the way the field works if you are ‘on the inside’. I would therefore tell my younger self to be a little bit braver.

Volunteer to join committees, write articles, seek and accept speaking engagement, shadow professionals, ask more senior practitioners to mentor you. Nowadays I tell aspiring practitioners that doing these things will provide them with invaluable learning and networking opportunities. I started doing these things later in my career but given the chance, I would tell my younger self to be just a little bit braver and get started right as soon as possible. 

How has a membership with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators benefitted your career?

The CIArb provides a plethora of opportunities to members wanting to get the most out of their membership. My membership has benefitted me in three main ways.

Firstly, it has allowed me to develop a network of friends and colleagues around the world – membership makes me part of a truly global community.

Secondly, it has given me a voice – I have served on the CIArb’s Board of Management, London Branch Committee, YMG Global Steering Committee and other bodies over the years, sharing ideas with colleagues.

Lastly, it has helped me to build my profile – being a Fellow is recognized as a badge of quality around the world, and as a member I have had the chance to publish articles, spoken at and organized events, mentored young members around the world and met some of the titans of the arbitration world.

What do you consider to be your biggest achievement in the field thus far?

I was honored to be appointed as the first female Chair of the YMG in 2017 – there are so many inspiring female leaders in ADR and to have the opportunity to be the first woman to lead the CIArb’s dynamic group of 4,000 members under 40 was a privilege.

I was proud to be elected to the board of ArbitralWomen during its 25th anniversary year and to have the opportunity to work with inspiring female practitioners around the world to fly the flag for women in international dispute resolution.

I have a few projects on the go at present and hope that my greatest achievements are still ahead of me though. To quote Hamilton: “There’s a million things I haven’t done but just you wait ...”

Tell us a short war story from your ADR experience.

Unfortunately confidentiality makes it difficult to tell ADR war stories. There are, no doubt, some wonderful unpublished memoirs written by ADR practitioners lurking in drawers around the world, waiting to be discovered.   

If you could be a film/book character for one day who would it be and why?

May I have eighty days, please? If so, Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days, because it would be nice to see the world through a wider lens, rather than through the windows of business hotels or airport lounges. I admire his self-belief, determination, courage and loyalty to his friends. I am rather fond of the Reform Club too.

If you could have dinner with a famous person, dead or alive, who would that be?

Neil Gaiman, an award-winning and very much alive British author who is known for his work across multiple genres and types of media. He is a passionate advocate for libraries and a tireless supporter of the UNHCR and freedom of speech. I like his stories.

His advice for authors of fiction and non-fiction is equally applicable to those drafting documents in the ADR arena: finish things, write more to get better at writing, read more to become a better writer and recognize that clarity is often more important than strictly following strict grammatical rules. Being able to craft a compelling narrative is a valuable skill when drafting memorials.

Amanda Lee FCIArb