Theominique Nottage MCIArb, educational background is diverse having studied in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, The Bahamas, Costa Rica and Spain. She holds a dual Bachelor of Arts degree with Integral Honours in International Studies and Spanish from Le Moyne College (Syracuse, NY, USA) and has also studied Spanish at Centro Panamericano de Idiomas (San Jose, Costa Rica) and the Universidad de Salamanca (Salamanca, Spain). In 2013 Theominique obtained a Bachelor of Laws with Honours from the University of West Indies (Cave Hill, Barbados) and in 2015 she received the Legal Education Certificate from the Council of Legal Education’s Eugene Dupuch Law School (Nassau, The Bahamas).
Having been called to the Bar of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas in October 2015, Theominique later obtained a Master of Laws in Comparative and International Dispute Resolution with Merit from Queen Mary, University of London in 2016 and in 2018 she obtained an International Award Writing Certificate with Distinction. Theominique has worked in both the public and private sectors and serves as a member of the Executive Committee of the CIArb Bahamas Branch and is one of three Young ICCA Co-Chairs.
Why have you decided to specialise in ADR and what attracted you to this area of law?
I first made the decision to specialise in ADR as a first-year law student at the University of the West Indies in 2010. The Bahamas had just updated its arbitration legislation by virtue of The Arbitration Act 2009 and The Arbitration (Foreign Arbitral Awards) Act 2009. The effect of the former was to update the previous 19th century legislation and modernize the legislative framework while the effect of the latter was to incorporate the New York Convention into domestic law. For me, it was exciting to not only learn about the impact of Alternative Dispute Resolution as part of my LL.B programme, but also to understand its potential impact for The Bahamas as the Government of The Bahamas continued to work toward The Bahamas establishing itself as a leading jurisdiction in the Americas for arbitration and other ADR mechanisms. As a result of that excitement I felt for ADR, it became my passion, and I made a decision to pursue it as a specialism.
What was the trajectory of your career that led you to your current position/post?
I am presently employed with the Government of The Bahamas as an Arbitration Consultant. In this role with the Government of The Bahamas, I am responsible for the revamping of ADR legislation and the promotion of The Bahamas as a centre for international arbitration and ADR. Prior to commencing employment with the Government, I was employed with a full-service Tier 1 Commercial Law Firm in The Bahamas and worked as an Associate in the Litigation Practice Group, primarily, and to a lesser extent in the Intellectual Property Practice Group, the Private Client & Wealth Management Practice Group, the Insolvency & Corporate Restructuring Practice Group and the Securities & Investment Funds Practice Group. I also completed my pupillage with the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs in The Bahamas. As someone based in an emerging jurisdiction, I do not have the same access to opportunities as others who may be based in more established jurisdictions like (New York) United States of America or (London) United Kingdom. Therefore, I had to make good use of the limited opportunities that I did have through organizations like Chevening, Young ICCA and the CIArb. Through these organizations, I have had access to scholarship funding, a mentorship programme along with skills training workshops, leadership opportunities and an expansive ADR network. Each of these factors played an important role in the advancement of my career and led to my current position where I am able to be part of The Bahamas’ transition to a leading centre for international arbitration and other ADR mechanisms.
What are the challenges/obstacles women in ADR face in the early stages of their career?
From my personal perspective, a lot of times I am the only person ‘in the room’ who looks like me and has my background. To expand, I am from a small island developing state that is still working toward maximising its full potential in the world of ADR in addition to being under 40, a woman and black. At times, I have had to assert my presence to ensure that my voice, as unique as it may be, would be heard. I think that sometimes, people assume that because of those aforementioned factors, I should not have as much to say, or I do not deserve to be ‘in the room’ at all. Generally, I think some of the challenges /obstacles that women in ADR face in the early stages of their career are similar in that women have to face gender bias no matter their race or ethnicity. Female ADR practitioners not only have to be assertive, but they also have to be the best in every way to really effectively compete against their male counterparts. Additionally, I think because of those challenges / obstacles, women tend to suffer a bit more from Imposter Syndrome which can be crippling to experience, while trying to overcome those challenges and obstacles.
What keeps you motivated in your career?
I am motivated by the fact that I am building on the foundational work that has been done by other women in the ADR field in The Bahamas (like Bertha Cooper-Rousseau, FCIArb, Kelphene Cunningham, FCIArb, Caryl Lashley, FCIArb and Retired Justice Rubie Nottage, FCIArb) and that someone will come after me to continue the work that will advance The Bahamas even further as an international centre for ADR. Patriotism aside, I have always been a very driven person with a strong work ethic. I come from a family where women have held leadership roles in government, politics and the community. I have also been blessed to have a number of mentors who have demonstrated the value of having the type of career and life that will inspire others to not only be better but do better. Being fortunate enough to be in that kind of environment, is sufficient motivation for me to want to create that type of environment for others through my career.
What do you consider to be your biggest achievement in the field thus far?
There are two career achievements that I consider to be major accomplishments for me thus far – (i) Young ICCA Co-Chair and (ii) Arbitration Consultant for the Government of The Bahamas.
I have been a member of Young ICCA since 2014. I was selected to be a Mentee in the 2017 – 2018 Mentoring Programme cycle with Professor William Park as my Mentor and Manuela de la Helguera as my Mentoring Buddy. In 2019, I decided to apply for Young ICCA Co-Chair because I did not see enough representation of people like me involved at the leadership level of Young ICCA and at the time, the organization held in-person Skills Training Workshops that were not only mostly focused on people based in more established jurisdictions as opposed to the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa but also less accessible for people based in those aforementioned regions. When I won the election for Young ICCA Co-Chair in July 2019, I was really pleasantly surprised as I did not know that I would be successful in that campaign, because I was a new person (so to speak) in the international ADR community without any opportunity to formally meet/network with a lot of the people that supported my election. Through my role as one of three Young ICCA Co Chairs, I have been able to work with some of the brightest young minds in the international ADR community and help Young ICCA to continue to fulfil its mission of ‘opening the doors of international arbitration’. For me that has been very important and something I hope that I can continue to do even after my term ends.
As to becoming a Consultant to the Government of The Bahamas, I mentioned that I first became interested in ADR, especially arbitration, as a young law student. To now be in this position, at my age and at a relatively early stage in my legal career is more than I could have ever hoped. Usually, people who work in this type of role, are much older and are at the later stages of their career. I am grateful that the Government of The Bahamas recognises that I have am a valuable asset and that I am able to meaningfully contribute to the establishment of The Bahamas as an international centre for ADR. I consider this role to be one of my dream jobs and I am extremely excited about the work that we have planned for the coming months.
What is it like to work in a predominantly male profession?
It can sometimes be challenging to learn how to effectively balance when its necessary to be assertive and when it is not necessary. However, I have found that the profession is more predominantly male internationally, while in The Bahamas, women have dominated the profession, generally. As a result, I think that I have had a good experience in the profession, notwithstanding some of the challenges that I have had to date.
How has CIArb influenced your career progression and CIArb’s membership benefited your career?
Through the CIArb Bahamas Branch, I have been able to be a part of the Executive Committee and be a part of the decision-making process for projects by the Branch as well as lead projects for the benefit of future and young ADR practitioners. For instance, in 2018 I had the opportunity to organize a workshop on drafting arbitration clauses as a part of the Arbitration and Investment Summit hosted by Peter D. Maynard Counsel & Attorneys and in 2020, I facilitated an agreement between the CIArb Bahamas Branch and the Eugene Dupuch Law School (Nassau, The Bahamas) to deliver the ADR course. CIArb has helped to raise my professional profile locally and more recently internationally which in turn has benefitted my career.
What do you think the future for women in ADR will be like and what do you consider as the biggest challenge for a female professional in ADR in the future?
I think the future for women in ADR is bright. Now, more so than ever before, women have worked to emphasize the importance of gender diversity in ADR. For instance, the ICCA Reports No. 8: Report of the Cross-Institutional Task Force on Gender Diversity in Arbitral Appointments and Proceedings highlights the existing trends for women in international arbitration while emphasising the importance of gender equality and inclusion in international arbitration. That report will likely positively influence the appointment of women in arbitral proceedings by arbitral institutions, in-house counsel and the like in the future. I think that the biggest challenge for a female professional in ADR in the future will be ensuring that we do not return to the status quo and that we continue to advance. Sometimes, it’s easy to rest on one’s laurels when we think we have accomplished our goals. However, there is still work to be done to maintain our achievements and build on our achievements by setting new goals. Women in ADR have to ensure that we continue to move forward and that there is no regression.
Are there any interesting developments in the field of ADR in the jurisdiction you are based in?
So many! The Bahamas is in its final stages of amending the International Commercial Arbitration Bill 2018 which, when enacted, will incorporate the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration into Bahamian law. Besides that, the Government of The Bahamas is preparing to make its first appointments of Members of Court of the Permanent Court of Arbitration which we hope will strengthen our relationship with the PCA, as we only became a Member State in June 2016. The Government of The Bahamas is now also including Mediation and Construction Adjudication as part of its ADR focus and is considering becoming a signatory to the Singapore Convention on Mediation. It is a dynamic time for ADR developments in The Bahamas and there are a lot of exciting things coming in the near future.
If you could practice ADR in any other country where will that be and why?
If possible, I would practice ADR in London, United Kingdom. I studied at the School of International Arbitration, Queen Mary, University of London as a 2015 – 2016 Chevening Scholar and candidate for the Comparative and International Dispute Resolution LL.M and it was one of the best experiences of my life. Besides the benefit of QMUL having one of the leading programmes for international arbitration, London has a vibe that is difficult to put into words beyond saying that it felt like a spirit kindred to mine was physically embodied as the city of London. It is one of my favourite places in the world outside of the beautiful islands of The Bahamas and I felt at home.
Tell us about your interests, hobbies or any out of work activities.
Outside of work activities, I am a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the first Black, Greek-lettered organization for women of African descent in the world. Through my membership, I am able to mentor young women, and be of service to my community. My sorority plays an important role in my life and has made me a better person. In addition to my civic involvement, I enjoy working out at my local gym, binging Netflix series when I am able and reading. One of my favourite authors is Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche and I have read several of her books. I recently began reading her debut novel, ‘Purple Hibiscus’ and it’s been an interesting read so far. One of the things I appreciate most about her writing is the inclusion of her Nigerian culture which she describes so vividly.