Sunny late spring weather welcomed the participants in Helsinki as more than 200 legal professionals assembled to the city to attend the 15th IFCAI Biennial Conference, organised in the Finnish capital on 23 May 2019. The topic of the IFCAI conference, which this year substituted the traditional Helsinki International Arbitration Day, headlined ‘Roles and Responsibilities of Key Stakeholders in Conflict Resolution – Finding the Right Balance to Maximise Strategic and Effective Conflict Resolution’. Since arbitration lawyers are generally known for their enthusiasm for seminars, the IFCAI conference also inspired an energetic flow of side events, including the Young Arbitration Club Finland (YACF) and Club Español del Arbitraje (CEA) Capítulo Nórdico-Báltico joint conference on the topic of ‘Arbitration hearings – More than arguments and facts. What else is in the room?’ This blog post will provide a short round-up of the YACF-CEA seminar’s discussion.
The day prior to the IFCAI conference, some 30 arbitration practitioners, largely consisting of YACF and CEA membership and supporters, gathered to the offices of Roschier Attorneys Ltd to discuss certain less emphasised aspects of arbitration hearings. The topic addressed the role and influence of culture, language, gender and emotions, as well as tensions between both the counsel and the arbitrators in the hearing room. Following welcoming words from the organising bodies, discussion was kicked off with Dr Maxi Scherer (Professor of Law, Queen Mary University of London, School of International Arbitration; Special Counsel, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP) setting the scene to the topic of the evening. Dr Scherer shared insights into the work of Daniel Kahneman on thinking fast and slow, and how concepts such as primary effect, anchoring effect, confirmation of bias, and psychological priming may affect dynamics in the hearing room.
Dr Scherer’s refined opening was followed by a panel discussion, featuring Robin Oldenstam (Partner, Mannheimer Swartling Avokatbyrå AB), Ricardo Gomes (Associate, Dittmar & Indrenius Attorneys Ltd), Nika Larkimo (Associate, White & Case LLP) and Andrei Solin (Associate, Shearman & Sterling LLP) as speakers. Mr Gomes first took the floor and provoked the audience to identify and analyse the luggage that everyone carries with them to the hearing room upon entering. Ms Larkimo proceeded to discuss cultural differences in arbitration, including in perceptions of evidence, and reminded that ‘fish cannot see the water’ – i.e. underlining the benefits in being aware of one’s own cultural luggage also referred to by Mr Gomes. Mr Solin then asked, is arbitration rational, and presented insights into how being aware of biases may help overcoming them. Mr Oldenstam wrapped up the panel with an elegant presentation on the importance of advocacy in arbitration hearings, highlighting, inter alia, the role of opening statements, presentation tactics, and recognising the arbitrators’ biases potentially affecting your client’s case.
Closing remarks were delivered by Adriana Aravena-Jokelainen (Case Manager, The Finland Arbitration Institute). Ms Aravena-Jokelainen identified as an overarching theme from the evening’s discussion that arbitrators are human, and that with being human, comes the risk of bias discussed from different perspectives by the speakers. The audience participated in the lively discussion and exchange of experiences that followed before cocktails.
Special thank you to the speakers and everyone attending the seminar. YACF hopes to see you all again in Helsinki for the next Helsinki International Arbitration Day!
Senior Associate, Avance Attorneys Ltd