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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

ON DISPUTE RESOLUTION #460

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My next Post – #461 – will focus on China.
In today’s post, however, the searchlight is on an often overlooked aspect of Dispute Resolution.
What is the most important quality that an arbitrator and/or mediator must possess if they are to discharge their responsibilities? As we wrestle with the question, we can specify the topics that automatically come to mind as being the one essential quality. It is not knowledge of the law or familiarity with the Arbitration Act or even awareness of the issues in dispute between the parties – important though it is that the dispute resolver is skilled in each of these abilities. Any deficiencies in your knowledge of the above matters can be rectified in the course of the arbitration. It is better that you are well informed on all of these issues before the hearing commences but you can put in the hours during the hearing to remedy the deficiencies. It is not encouraged and better that you are well prepared but you do have a solution.
But there is one ability that is more important and which rarely receives the attention to match its importance. It is your Character.
Too often educators and lecturers focus on familiar issues which every dispute resolver must possess – matters such as the terms of the contract; the law that applies to the issues in dispute; knowledge of the papers (that is to say the contract and the exchanges between the parties) and the applicable law.
Raising questions of character is a matter of sensitivity. It shouldn’t be but it is because it is so rarely aired. But are you straight? Are you honest? Do you carry grudges into the hearing room? Are you aware of your prejudices? How strong are you at keeping your mind clean, honest and straightforward?
These are key questions. Being a dispute resolver is not a popularity contest. You should not be appointed because you are likeable or jovial or even well known. You are appointed because you can be relied upon to be truthful, honest, objective, impartial and fair minded. These qualities are right at the core of your being. But are we too embarrassed to confront these issues – even to make them part of our training?

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