Maritime arbitrators come from a wide range of backgrounds. They might be solicitors or barristers; some may have been in private practice, or claims handlers in P&I or Defence Clubs. But arbitration is not limited to lawyers. There are also, for example, former master mariners, marine engineers, brokers, and commercial people who have worked for shipowners or charterers. All of them can have a role to play in the resolution of maritime disputes.
Maritime arbitrators’ work is not limited to the chartering of ships, carriage of goods by sea, or the building, sale or financing of conventional ships, though these are an important part of our practice. It extends, for example, to disputes over the sale, purchase and financing of commodities, and to luxury yachts and superyachts. In the offshore energy sector, it may include contracts for the building or operation of ships, mobile offshore units and specialised vessels, or the installation of wind farms.
Users of maritime arbitration generally expect arbitrators to have several years of experience in the maritime sector. It is very unusual nowadays for people to take up arbitration in the early stages of their careers.
The route to becoming an arbitrator begins differently for lawyers and non-lawyers. If you have an English law qualification and experience of maritime matters, then generally there is no need to take any further course or obtain any other certification. Some lawyers choose to become Fellows of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (FCIArb), but this is not necessary. For those without an English law qualification, it is common in practice to obtain a Fellowship or similar qualification. This is usually required in order to become a Full Member of the LMAA. Even in disputes with technical issues, it is important for the tribunal to be familiar with the law and practice of arbitration, in order to conduct the proceedings fairly and efficiently, and to issue an award which is likely to be valid and enforceable.
The CIArb currently runs an online course for a Virtual Diploma in International Maritime Arbitration. This is supported by the LMAA, and several of the tutors are members who are practising arbitrators.
People with seagoing experience often work as consultants before becoming arbitrators. In this way, they sometimes gain experience of acting as expert witnesses in court proceedings or arbitrations.
Once you are ready to practise as an arbitrator, the next step is to raise your profile among users and potential users of arbitration, to make them aware that you are ready and willing to accept appointments. In section 2 of LMAA’s Advice on Ethics (https://lmaa.london/advice-on-ethics/), the Association sets out guidelines in relation to communicating with users. Among other things, members are permitted to include an entry in a list or directory. Many people use tools such as LinkedIn very effectively to raise their profile in an appropriate manner. This can include writing and publishing articles and notes on reported cases. It can also be a good idea to look for speaking opportunities at conferences and seminars.
The LMAA is not an arbitration institution. As such, we do not generally appoint arbitrators. The President has a limited power to make appointments, most commonly where parties have failed to agree on a sole arbitrator under the Small Claims Procedure. Also, unlike a law firm or barristers’ chambers, the Association does not recruit arbitrators at a junior level and train them. The LMAA is an association of individual practising arbitrators. By the time someone applies for Aspiring Full Membership, they will already have significant experience as an arbitrator in maritime disputes. However, Supporting Membership (https://lmaa.london/guidelines-for-supporting-membership/) can be a useful step along the road to becoming an arbitrator. It brings you into the community of maritime arbitrators. It entitles you to receive our Monthly Bulletin, which includes case notes, articles and news of events, and an exclusive quarterly update of Lloyds Maritime Law Newsletter. It also gives you access to seminars, social events, and other opportunities for networking with users and arbitrators. Members can submit case notes or articles for publication in the Monthly Bulletin.
We operate a mentoring scheme for Aspiring Full Members.
The Association is committed to promoting diversity among maritime arbitrators through equality of opportunity. Anyone interested in knowing more about becoming a maritime arbitrator is welcome to contact the Executive Secretary at email@example.com