Developing Diversity within Diversity Discourse: Remembering Non-Lawyers in Arbitration, in Asia and Beyond

This is the title of a presentation (Powerpoints in PDF here) for the 28-29 May 2022 19th ASLI Asian Law Conference, hosted this year by the University of Tokyo, based on an empirical study by myself, ANJeL-in-ASEAN convenor Asst Prof Nobumichi Teramura, and USydney research assistant James Tanna. It adds some directly Asia-related data to the analysis presented in a forthcoming chapter in Shahla Ali, Giorgio Colombo et al (eds) Sustainable Diversity in International Arbitration (Elgar, mid-late 2022), with a longer paper available via SSRN and a posting summarising key empirical findings via Kluwer Arbitration Blog.

Our presentation for ASLI also suggests that given the relative influence still of law professors in developing international arbitration in Asian states, particularly perhaps those more influenced by the civil law tradition, the large and growing dominance of full-time lawyers across the field may have a significant indirect impact on international arbitration in Asia.

Presentation Abstract: This paper, co-authored with Asst Prof Nobumichi Teramura (UBrunei) and James Tanna (USydney), highlights a curious lack of diversity within the proliferating discourse about the lack of diversity in international arbitration. There is hardly any awareness or at least sustained discussion about limited diversity of professional backgrounds, and more specifically the dominance nowadays of those with practising lawyer positions or primary careers – including more recently in Asia – across the key groups and publication outlets for international arbitration. Yet this encroachment of lawyers was still being contested in the 1990s, as being linked to burgeoning costs and delays, and such “formalisation” has been re-emerging in recent years. Diversifying the world of international arbitration to involve more non-lawyers, including academics, could promote various other objectives too, and thus enhance the legitimacy and sustainability of international arbitration.

This paper therefore analyses empirically the ways lawyers have come to dominate key nodes of influence within the world of international arbitration. We examine this worldwide and in the Asian region, thus also giving a sense of geographical diversity. Part I looks at lawyers in key general associations or organisations promoting international arbitration, including their leadership and presenters at symposiums. Part II focuses on various arbitration centres globally and regionally, which actually administer cases. Part III examines contributions to some key arbitration journals (including the Asian International Arbitration Journal), an influential book series, and a widely-read Blog. The conclusion reiterates that restoring more non-lawyers in the world of international arbitration should help not only to reduce formalisation and inefficiencies in international arbitration, but also have various other salutary effects, including potentially improving gender diversity.

Author: Luke Nottage

Prof Luke Nottage (BCA, LLB, PhD VUW, LLM Kyoto) is founding co-director of the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL), Associate Director (Japan) of the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney (CAPLUS), and Professor of Comparative and Transnational Business Law at Sydney Law School. He specialises in international dispute resolution, foreign investment law, contract and consumer (product safety) law.