Behavior That Arbitrators Are Expected to Avoid - Chapter 2 - The Dark Side of Arbitration
Originally from The Dark Side of Arbitration
I. Noblesse Oblige
There is a well-worn saying, which is yet true for the most part: “arbitration is only as good as the arbitrators.” Arbitrators are the key players in the arbitral proceedings and their capabilities and personal qualities are decisive in ensuring that the process functions properly.
This objective is achieved, first of all, when arbitrators fully comply with their various duties, including those outlined in the previous chapter. These duties stem from provisions of the statutory law or soft law applicable to the arbitration proceedings. At times, however, compliance with such requirements may not be sufficient.
Arbitrators are also bound to observe other kinds of behavior which, though not mandatory or specifically contemplated by soft law provisions, are inherent to the very special nature of their task. Arbitrating is a noble function and, as the French proverb “noblesse oblige” contends – there are special obligations associated with nobility.
Some of these behaviors are required in any form of interaction among professionals, but they acquire a particular connotation in the kind of private administration of justice that is constituted by arbitration.
It is worth recalling that the members of the arbitration community, unlike lawyers, have no professional governing body with its own codes and disciplinary organs, nor are there any official (or at any rate trustworthy) lists or rankings of arbitrators. To achieve a successful career, an arbitrator can really only rely on his or her reputation and credibility. This is his or her most precious asset, as it takes many years to build, but can be lost very quickly as the result of one glaring error or misbehavior, news of which soon travels by word of mouth round the circles that count (essentially those of outside and in-house counsel, other arbitrators and arbitral institutions). In reality, most arbitrators come to be selected on the basis of information passed on by word of mouth. Once that reputation and credibility is lost, it is usually never recovered. This fact is well-known to all arbitrators, especially to Presidents, about some of whom, for example, it is said that they take on so many commitments that they are unable to timely and properly fulfill them.