Watch Ciarb’s series on commercial stability in a world of conflict

Chalked arrows on a blackboard

Are businesses fit for purpose in this volatile world? Do businesses have the right plans in place to navigate and mitigate today’s challenges?

These questions and more were addressed in the first webinar in The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators’ (Ciarb) six-part series ‘’Commercial Stability in a World of Conflict: Effective dispute management in uncertain times’, co-hosted with JAMS. Ciarb’s Isabel Phillips was joined by Ranse Howell, Sheila Bates, and Michael Mcllwrath.

We are in a state of perma-crisis. The current geopolitical situation in central Europe is just one example, set against a backdrop of profound challenges for our time including the climate crisis and public health crises (as highlighted by COVID). Against this context, the two different worlds of conflict resolution and alternative dispute resolution have been thrown into stark relief.

Businesses worldwide are under tremendous pressure with rising costs, a war for talent, business ethics, sustainability and supply chain management issues to name just some of their challenges. It has never been more important for businesses to, as a matter of routine, assess their enterprise risk management (ERM) in terms of systems, processes and implementation. It is essential to review risks and game changers, as well as identifying what mitigation plans they need to have in place, especially for dispute mitigation. An effective ERM will enable businesses to navigate periods of extreme volatility and uncertainty, allowing them to focus on ensuring that the business continues to operate, and indeed thrive, while dynamic and inbuilt mechanisms kick-in to resolve the area of dispute.

Ranse drew up a useful framework for dispute resolution professionals to take note of when supporting businesses, citing the three T’s: Technology, Timing and Training. It is through leveraging technology that the practice of dispute resolution jumped forward nearly half a millennia in just a few months; up until March 2020, dispute resolvers worked to a set of procedures laid out in the 18th century. That technology has enabled other changes and will enable more. One of those changes is a recognition that agility and speed is not just desirable, it’s important. Technology provides us with a more rapid and flexible process and obviates the need for parties to wait for a big hearing at the end of the dispute process. Instead, it allows key components of a dispute to be resolved along the way, so that dispute resolution can be seen even more clearly as an enabler that allows businesses to get things done, facilitating and moving working relationships forward. Dispute resolution must now be considered part of a business process.

“With the emergencies that we're facing today, we need to start with the end, where we want to be, and work backwards, how can you get them done fast so that you don't encounter the sorts of problems that will hold them up and delay their implementation.”

Michael Mcllwrath

The introduction of technology has also shifted the power balance in working relationships, requiring businesses and ADR professionals to deal with their customers in a different way. Soft skills that support that sense of partnership between a client and a business are essential to delivering a successful outcome. While we all need technical expertise to do our jobs, we should not focus on building technical expertise alone. It is the soft skills that will support teams in achieving faster routes to resolution.

“On soft skills… I think probably many mediators and others involved in dispute resolution would say that they're the hardest skills, they're the really tough ones.”

Sheila Bates.

Interested to know more?

Visit Commercial stability in a world of conflict: Effective dispute management in uncertain times. - YouTube to listen to this first webinar in Ciarb’s six-part series on Commercial Stability.


  • Isabel Philips PhD FRSA, director of ADR and Mediation Development at Ciarb, is a conflict specialist and mediator with over 20 years of experience. She brings to Ciarb global experience in the application of complementary application of different forms of ADR, and the development of the skills and knowledge of those working in and with conflict and disputes.
  • Ranse Howell PhD, JD, MSW is director of international operations at JAMS ADR, the largest private dispute resolution provider in the world, and works between London and Washington, DC.
  • Sheila Bates is a highly experienced senior accredited mediator, conflict coach, facilitator and trainer. She mediates Employment and Workplace, Banking and Finance, Technology, Partnership and Contract disputes. Sheila draws upon her 30 years' business expertise, gained in FTSE and Fortune quoted companies, international financial institutions and professional services organisations, to facilitate parties in understanding different perspectives to foster settlement
  • Michael Mcllwrath has over 22 years of experience in lead in-house litigation roles for General Electric’s Oil and Gas Division. He now runs his own Dispute Resolution Services consultancy , MDisputes Srl , based in Italy, having previously worked as VP for of litigation for Baker Hughes. He is an adjunct professor at Bocconi Law School in Milan and currently chairs the ICC’s governing body for Dispute Resolution Services.

The Commercial Stability series has been one of Ciarb’s most successful webinar series to date. It has really resonated with our members, covering an area of the law that is at the forefront of people’s minds during this time of geopolitical uncertainty. Thank you to all those members who participated; the first five episodes attracted just over 1,100 participants from over 15 countries.