The subject of this address is “culture” and its impact on international commercial arbitration. We lawyers have often invoked “cultural differences” to mean a clash of legal processes—such as the different procedures used in civil and common law countries. More recently, “cultural differences” have been invoked by both civil and common-law practitioners to criticize— with some justification—the use by U.S. attorneys of litigation-style procedures in the arbitration forum that expand the time and costs of the arbitration process.
But another cultural development that has the pendulum swinging in the other direction seems to have gone virtually unnoticed. That is the growing impact of international norms on arbitration practices in the United States. The most recent example is the new American Bar Association/ American Arbitration Association Code of Ethics for Commercial Arbitrators, which adopts the international neutrality standard for party-appointed arbitrators. Another example is the growing practice of U.S. companies of referring to the International Bar Association Rules of Evidence in the arbitration clause in their international contracts. These developments suggest that U.S. ADR practices are influenced by cultural elements in other parts of the world.