Five steps to secure your first tribunal appointment

For a novice arbitrator, securing a first appointment in a competitive market can be daunting. Tribunal appointments are typically made via institutional panels or referrals, and as most experienced practitioners tend to secure repeat appointments, it is difficult – but not impossible – to break in. Kieran Morgan FCIArb shares how he carved his own niche. 

Research and Publications 

Kieran’s first piece of practical advice is to research arbitration in depth with a view to publish. When he pivoted from in-house counsel to research alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in Ireland and internationally, he shadowed Senior Counsel and International Arbitrator, Dr David Sharpe KC SC FCIArb. Together, they co-authored three articles, addressing hot topics in adjudication and international arbitration, which were published on LinkedIn. 

After that, he published his first journal article in the Construction, Engineering and Energy Law Journal (Issue 1, 2021), which examined the UK Supreme Court’s landmark decision and antecedent proceedings in Halliburton Company (Appellant) v Chubb Bermuda Insurance Ltd (Formerly known as Ace Bermuda Insurance Ltd) (First Respondent) [2020] UKSC 48. 

“On the strength of this publication, I applied for an international arbitration clerkship at Arnold & Porter, one of the world’s leading law firms which is annually listed in the Global Arbitration Review Top 30 Global Practice Groups,” Kieran explains. “I understood that I needed to gain practical experience in both commercial and investor-state arbitration, and that I had to learn memorial-style drafting, which is practised in civil law jurisdictions and routinely preferred when drafting arbitral proceedings.” 

International Arbitration Clerkship  

Kieran had no issue with “stepping back from his career as a solicitor” and did not view a clerkship as “beneath him”. He continued: “On the contrary, I viewed it as a prerequisite and felt confident that I would be learning a new skill.” After two rounds of interviews and a writing sample to demonstrate his research, writing, and drafting skills, he started a six-month international arbitration clerkship at Arnold & Porter. “In my role as a clerk, I gained first-hand experience in both commercial arbitration and Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) matters. I prepared presentations, researched important cases and precedents, analysed institutional and ad hoc Rules, and drafted case-law reviews and tribunal authorities for the associates and partners.” 

The importance of good drafting cannot be overstated. Kieran says, “I made the most of the opportunity to learn from world-leading counsel and international arbitrators across Arnold & Porter’s global offices. I recognised that I needed to complete specialist training in international construction arbitration and that I was eligible to apply for the Accelerated Route to Fellowship Programme at Ciarb, so those were the next steps in the process.” 

Training, Scholarship, Memberships, and Fellowships 

“The key to continuous professional development is application and consistency – that means leveraging your contacts and gaining recognition for your skills and expertise,” explains Kieran. “This leads to formal recognition and the final stage in the process to secure your first appointment – admission to arbitrator panels.” 

In the three years since his clerkship, Kieran has continued to upskill and develop his knowledge and expertise, which is instrumental in securing panel memberships. “Change is the only constant, according to Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus,” explains Kieran. “Continuing professional development in ADR through training and competency-based assessments develops a practitioner's technical skills and specialist knowledge in an ever-changing legal and regulatory landscape. Ciarb’s Ongoing Learning program is invaluable in this regard and helps members to reflect, review and document their learning and develop new skills, which is essential for personal growth and practice development. Capacity building is also important, such as mentoring new and novice arbitrators. Members are encouraged to upskill and become Fellows, which demonstrates advanced knowledge of arbitration and meets the highest standards of professional credibility in dispute avoidance and dispute management.” 

As international arbitration is a crucial part of ADR, especially for cross-border disputes, acting as counsel, expert witness or arbitrator has become a viable career for many professionals. Kieran advises that it is advantageous to become a member of more than one arbitral institution, particularly where you practise in multiple jurisdictions and especially if you practise under both common and civil law. 

“Moreover, the diverse and multicultural nature of international arbitration means that there are minimal language and cultural barriers for practitioners wishing to become members of multiple associations,” he says. “Becoming a member of Ciarb helps build your network through an international and inclusive community with access to global events and seminars delivered by world leading practitioners. Additionally, Ciarb is committed to the highest standards of professionalism and ethics in private dispute resolution, providing members with access to relevant information, academic research, insights and resources, Rules and Guidelines, and the Code of Conduct.” 


Networking is crucial at all stages of the process – and it’s equally important to build your social presence online. Kieran recommends following international arbitral institutions on LinkedIn, together with the leading publications in international commercial and investor-state arbitration. He identified world leading arbitrators and key stakeholders and sent personal messages to them via LinkedIn – connecting, sharing insights, and exploring opportunities for learning. “Many of them replied to me and were happy to engage and offer advice about online conferences and events, fireside chats, scholarship opportunities, routes to publication, and panel memberships,” he says. “Acting on their advice, I attended lots of events and I posted about them on LinkedIn, sharing my takeaways, insights, and thoughts on the matters discussed.”   

“I also began sharing articles and papers that I had written discussing key court and tribunal decisions, highlighting my writing skills,” he says. Kieran developed a following and was offered international scholarships, memberships, and research fellowships. His network of trusted LinkedIn connections and followers grew to more than 8,500. “Even though we are attending more in-person events nowadays, I cannot overstate the importance of having a digital footprint in international arbitration. The largest and most prestigious events operate a hybrid model, so accessibility is still possible if you think strategically,” he says. “And you will be judged by your peers based on your online profile (or lack thereof), so it is vital that you are seen and heard.” 

Panel Membership 

Realistically, novice arbitrators will find it difficult to get a referral simply because they are deemed not experienced enough. So, how can you gain experience without a formal appointment? “The answer is via Panel Memberships,” explains Kieran. When you are listed on a Panel, you are visible as a member and available for selection to Tribunals, Commissions, and ad hoc Committees. “Panel lists are used to appoint Arbitrators where the parties are unable to agree on a nominee, but are also used for appointments to ad hoc Committees, so it is beneficial to become a member of as many panels as possible. Novice arbitrators need a platform to spotlight their skills, experience, and flexibility. They also need a safe space to network and enhance their reputation.” For Kieran, Panel Membership is key to continuous professional development, securing a first appointment, and building a solid and trusted arbitrator profile.  

“Panel Memberships have helped me to network strategically and improve my arbitrator skills through gaining insights from experienced practitioners and knowledge sharing. I have assisted more senior colleagues with Tribunal preparation and procedural orders, research, and drafting. Learning from my peers and preeminent arbitrators has been an invaluable experience for me, and I have been able to forge long-lasting relationships, which in turn has facilitated referrals,” he says. Colleagues nominate people they trust, and that is important to build as a novice. “Your reputation is your calling card and fundamental to securing a first appointment. My advice is to actively engage as a Panel Member and offer your services to colleagues.” 


Kieran Morgan FCIArb is a UK and Irish qualified lawyer, arbitrator and researcher with 15 years’ experience in private practice and in-house/consultancy. He specialises in construction law, energy, projects and procurement. As an independent arbitrator, Kieran practises in construction and energy disputes. He is a Member of the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators) SIArb and a Fellow of the Hong Kong Institute of Arbitrators (HKIArb), the Asian Institute of Alternative Dispute Resolution (AIADR) and Prime Dispute. Kieran is a Senior Legal Consultant at Brussels-based NGO, ECOS (the Environmental Coalition on Standards) and acts as appointed Legal Expert and Researcher in Public Procurement, advocating for mandatory Green Public Procurement (GPP) in the revised Construction Products Regulation (CPR) and Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR).