Russia's challenge to the Yukos awards has made the appropriate use of arbitral secretaries the issue of the day. An event in London convened by six young arbitration groups shone a light on the role they do and should play. Khaled Moyeed of Clyde & Co in London reports. Out of the shadows
Held at the London offices of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, the packed event brought together over 100 international arbitration practitioners who joined in the lively debate. Among them were several who had participated in the drafting of the Young ICCA Guide on Arbitral Secretaries, which was launched at the ICCA Conference in Miami last year, and performed the role of secretary themselves.
Audience members participated enthusiastically in the discussion and highlighted that although there is broad acceptance of the use of secretaries, there are also many concerns about their roles.
These include whether there is party consent to their appointment, whether there has been appropriate opportunity to object to their use and the extent to which they are bound by obligations such as confidentiality that bind the tribunal members.
By coincidence, the event coincided with the launch of new guidance on the subject - the Singapore International Arbitration Centre's Practice Note on the Appointment of Administrative Secretaries - which provided a talking point.
The event also coincided with Russia's publication of one of its writs for the setaside of the Yukos awards - which relies on the allegedly excessive role played by Canadian lawyer Martin Valasek, as assistant to the tribunal (a tribunal secretary equivalent).
Joshua Fellenbaum, senior associate at Clyde & Co in London and co-author of the Young ICCA Guide chaired the discussion and began by setting out the context for the guide. It was premised on a survey carried out in 2012 to 2013 seeking the views of 200 members of the international arbitration community, he said.
Of those surveyed, 95 per cent approved the use of arbitral secretaries, so the evening's discussion assumed the arbitration community's acceptance of their use.
In recent years, institutions such as the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, the ICC International Court of Arbitration , the Finland Chamber of Commerce and now the Singapore International Arbitration Centre have weighed in, publishing notes and guidelines on the use of tribunal secretaries, he said.
Fellenbaum presented a number of issues that have...