How do you gain arbitration experience without an appointment? The experience conundrum

Michael Tonkin C.Arb FCIArb, Victor Leginsky C.Arb FCIArb, Anthony Houghton SC C.Arb FCIArb, and Marion Smith KC FCIArb explain how the Applied Arbitration for Fellows course can help you to gain practical arbitration experience.

Learning by doing – on the job training - is said to work for many; from children to company directors. Based on our experiences in running the Applied Arbitration for Fellows course (AAF) we believe it may equally apply to arbitrators.

The AAF allows Ciarb Fellows who have not yet had their first appointment to develop their skills and knowledge in a real-life context, solving the problems that arbitrators typically come across such as:

  • Planning and conducting the preliminary meeting
  • Hearing and deciding jurisdictional issues
  • Dealing with delay tactics
  • Managing tribunal dynamics
  • Handling difficult and disruptive counsel
  • Tackling the translation and interpretation of witness evidence
  • Running the merits hearing

The course not only replicates the practical experience of sitting as an arbitrator, it also gives participants in-depth personal and focused feedback and guidance from experienced arbitration practitioners, themselves all Chartered Arbitrators.

The course originated from a survey of the Ciarb UAE Branch membership, and the Branch subsequently assisted in its development. Ciarb members from the UAE and East Asia Branches - Michael Tonkin, Victor Leginsky and Anthony Houghton SC - created case papers telling the sad tale of the marmalade manufacturer and its problems with the installer of a new production line. The story of thwarted ambition to increase production and difficult causation issues plays out over three interim hearings and a full face to face evidentiary hearing, with decisions along the way on procedure, jurisdiction, adjournment, disclosure and costs.  

The first course took place during the pandemic and was adapted for the new environment of virtual hearings. Marion Smith KC was Course Director and Professor Dr. Mohamed S. Abdel Wahab C.Arb FCIArb and Julian Cohen FCIArb acted as lead party representatives. It was a success with delegates attending from Europe, Africa and Asia and positive feedback from participants:

  • Always delivered with flair and good humour, I found the Applied Arbitration Course for Fellows to be both rigorous and immersive, giving me an authentic arbitration experience that far exceeded my expectations. I was particularly impressed by the careful efforts made by the training team to tailor the tuition and feedback that suited each student’s individual experience and needs. Also most helpful was the access I had to experienced practising arbitrators, enabling me to develop an arbitration network. I thoroughly recommend this exceptional course to anyone seeking to advance themselves in the world of international arbitration."
  • The Applied Arbitration course provides a rare opportunity to deal with practical issues in arbitration as a sitting arbitrator. This type of experience is invaluable and an excellent next step and complement to the theoretical training that Fellows would have already received.”

With that momentum behind it, the course has since been held in-person during 2023 in Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The course is offered to delegates who are Fellows of the Ciarb with preference given to Fellows who have not already been appointed as arbitrator. The case papers are constantly developing; to enhance the relevance of the course and reflect the feedback provided by all participants as part of an open session on the final day of the two-day programme. We too are learning by doing!

The aim - delivered each time - has been to leave the host Ciarb Branch with the materials, knowledge and experience to run the course itself with its own Course Director and Chartered Arbitrators as faculty. The course is already scheduled to run in 2024 in Dubai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Plans to hold the course for the first time in London are underway as are discussions to hold the course with other Branches. 

If you are interested in attending this course as a delegate or arranging a course please contact