Let’s say that one day, some client of yours arrives with a possible arbitration claim, you already did your request of arbitration, however, there was the point in time that you have to appoint an arbitrator, and the question that arrives then is, where do I find an arbitrator?
One possibility is that in your city there is an actual law bar or a lawyer’s bar association, request them with a recommendation of a practitioner involved in arbitration, if not, also ask the dean of the faculty of the university or universities in your city, so they can give you a recommendation for a possible arbitrator, the chambers of commerce can give you a hint of possible arbitrators, and of course the institutions for arbitration they will give you proposals for handling your dispute.
Ok, then you find your possible candidates, or let’s make it more interesting, you were contacted in order to be the arbitrator, exciting news!, but there is one little problem, you don’t have previous experience as an arbitrator in actual real cases, you were only arbitrator in Moot court and tribunals, now this is the real deal.
If you are contacted in order to be appointed as an arbitrator, then there is the issue of whether or not have an interview with the possible “clients”, since what you want to remain is actual neutral and impartial, and not to commit any type of actions that will diminish not only your neutrality nor your impartiality but also the appearance of your neutrality and impartiality.
My suggestion is that you lay down or come up with some rules so you can actually establish proper ways to be contacted and proper ways to have your meeting, some like to be contacted just over the phone, no more than 30 minutes, others just an email will serve and others like to have a face-to-face meeting, as well, go for a no more than 30 minutes long conversation.
What to ask?, will be fairly simple, to know the name of the parties and if they are a holding, then to know the names of the subsidiaries to the holding, the name of the counsel representing the parties on both sides of the table if possible, and finally the rules of arbitration. To know the names of the parties and their counsel will help you in avoiding conflicts of interest, and also to know the arbitral rules will help you in preparing yourself to the rules agreed by the parties.
What to discuss?, in this case there are couple of things to discuss, one is your previous experience on arbitrations, either as an arbitrator or co-arbitrator, as well as your experience on the relevant knowledge of the substantive law, if you already know the parties, you need to know if it is an international sales problem or a joint venture problem in a certain industry like pharmaceutical, construction, automotive, etc. Also, you can discuss your time availability for the arbitration at hand.
What you should avoid discussing? Avoid getting into the details of the case, that is, if it is a sales contract, avoid actually reviewing the sales contract between the parties, or getting into details on how the actual dispute took place. Just, don’t do it, this is because the possible counsel or the parties will have an impression that you are their arbitrator and can go with you directly any time they want in order to discuss more things once you become “their” arbitrator.
After the appointment as an arbitrator and the constitution of the arbitral tribunal, you should avoid above all the so called inter-partes communications, whenever they could happen, include the arbitral tribunal and the other parties in the mix.