In line with its mandate of promoting the use of arbitration and other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) through introducing aspiring practitioners from around the globe into the practice of arbitration, the Young International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA) recently held a day training workshop in the Teslim Elias Hearing Room at the International Centre for Arbitration and ADR in Lekki, Lagos.

The event hosted over sixty young arbitration practitioners from diverse backgrounds and levels of experience; from in-house counsels to Masters of Law graduates and law students.

The workshop was divided into two sessions, and focused on “How to get into International Arbitration” and “The Role of Local Counsel in International Arbitration”.

The distinguished faculty included Yemi Candide-Johnson, SAN, Partner, Strachan Partners; Lise Bosman, Executive Director, ICCA; Megha Joshi, Executive Secretary, Lagos Court of Arbitration, Ndanga Kamau, Registrar, LCIA-MIAC, Tunde Fagbohunlu, SAN, Partner, Aluko & Oyebode, Chair Arbitration Committee Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Farouk El-Hosseny, Legal Counsel, Permanent Court of Arbitration and Acting PCA Representative in Mauritius, Funke Adekoya, SAN, Partner ǼLEX Legal Practitioners & Arbitrators, Member ICCA Governing Board; Tolu Obamuroh, Associate General Counsel, Lagos Court of Arbitration and Duncan Bagshaw, Barrister, Stephenson Harwood, United Kingdom.

Members of the panel at the first session recounted their experiences from starting out in the field of international arbitration, to becoming experts;

Over the years my experience and fascination for arbitration has evolved and deepened. Career planning as an arbitrator is no longer by serendipity, in recent times it is more purpose oriented and structured, with many renowned international institutions offering degrees and internship opportunities in the field”.  Lise Bosman.

“I found myself in arbitration because while I loved resolving disputes as a lawyer in court, I found that litigation could not provide a timeous resolution of disputes”- Funke Adekoya, SAN

Participants were encouraged to actively get involved in arbitration activities. Tunde Fagbohunlu advised young practitioners to gain skills and competency in different industry sectors that would ultimately become the foundation for a strong and specialised arbitration practice. He also advised participants to identify and take advantage of local and international internship programs, whether paid or unpaid, in order to develop their competency.

Ms Joshi informed the audience that there is an opening for an internship programme at the Lagos Court of Arbitration for young practitioners or student desiring to gain practical experience in arbitration and other ADR mechanisms in an international setting. Furthermore, she announced the launch of the Lagos Court of Arbitration’s Small Claims Scheme — a  targeted scheme developed to resolve small claim disputes for general compensation arising from breach of contract and or negligence: applicable where both parties agree to settle their disputes in accordance with the Scheme, either at the contact formation stage, or  after  a dispute has arisen. The scheme is aimed at small claims between the values of N1,000,000.00 and not exceeding the sum of N5,000,000.00 (Five Million Naira).  Small businesses now have the opportunity to access resolution services for pending commercial disputes.

This novel initiative is aimed at enhancing the competence of young practitioners and arbitrators through:

  • providing mentorship for young practitioners through supervision and advisory roles from expert arbitrators
  • fostering professional and personal bonds between practitioners from diverse culture, academic and geographic backgrounds
  • providing access to professional development opportunities and career growth
  • introducing practitioners to the growing field of international dispute resolution and global best practice
  • providing young practitioners with the chance to commence arbitration and mediation techniques in real situations at an early stage under the scrutiny of senior arbitrators and ADR experts.

Ms Joshi stated that qualification for listing of the Small Claims Scheme panel of neutrals was by certification and experience. She therefore urged young practitioners to seize the opportunity to kick-start a career in ADR.

While speaking at the second session on the role of local counsel in international arbitration, Mr Candide-Johnson, SAN stated that “in arbitration, the experience and expertise of local counsel are beneficial in any setting, especially in international disputes —where complex procedural and judicial issues may arise”. This viewpoint was further buttressed by Mrs Kay Weinberg an associate at WilmerHale New York, USA. She stated that identifying arbitration strategies as soon as instructions are received and monitoring arbitration timelines are key factors in ensuring the effective practise of international arbitration by local counsel.   Ndanga Kamau notably advocated for skill acquisition and experience in local arbitration practise in order to easily settle into international arbitration. Tolu Obamuroh pointed out that in view of present day international commerce and trans border transactions, Nigeria may need to follow the Lagos example by amending the Arbitration and Conciliation Act explicitly stating that foreign lawyers are allowed to participate in arbitration proceedings in Nigeria, and that the Legal Practitioners Act does not apply to international arbitration.

Through the generous support from Investment Climate Facility for Africa, Babalakin & Co, ǼLEX and the Lagos Court of Arbitration, participants were ushered to a cocktail reception.