10 Sep 2020
Ben Giaretta C.Arb FCIArb, Chair of the London Branch, sets out some strategies for building your arbitration career.
1. Build your network
To begin with, you should connect with other arbitration practitioners both in your own jurisdiction and across the world. There are two approaches here: a broad one and a narrow one. The first involves raising your profile generally: you should aim for as much visibility as possible. Social media, such as posting on LinkedIn, is great for this. You can also attend conferences and social events. Writing articles gives another opportunity.
The narrow approach involves making contact with specific people. This needs to be targeted, and depends on what you are aiming to achieve. If you are searching for a position at a law firm, you need to connect with the people who are likely to hire. If you are looking for appointments as an arbitrator, you need to connect with the people who are likely to choose arbitrators. For experienced arbitrators, that is likely to be parties and their representatives; for those looking for an initial appointment, arbitral institutions are a better bet.
You need to approach this task in both ways because each way gives different results, and neither is sufficient by itself. But they interact. Your efforts to build your profile generally should generate opportunities to meet specific people. On the other hand, conversations with some people may not take you straight to your goal but might instead lead to an invitation to participate in something that raises your profile generally.
2. Build your brand
As well as connecting with people, you need to show you can provide value if those people choose you for the job or the appointment. You need to show you are someone they can rely on to perform consistently, and well.
There are a number of things you have to do here. It’s important that you gain expertise through training, and gain experience through similar work; then you have to demonstrate to others that you have these. Qualifications are an obvious route because they serve as an advertisement of your achievements. You can also use your general profile-raising, such as writing an article or preparing a talk, for multiple purposes: it gives an opportunity to learn something new as part of the exercise, and it provides visible evidence of your knowledge and expertise.
Another way to gain trust is through “social proof”. That is one of Robert Cialdini's six principles of persuasion in his classic book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. People are more likely to choose something if they see that others have chosen it before them. If you take on a position of responsibility, even one that is not exactly the same as the one you are ultimately looking for, that can help build trust. Being chosen for a committee, for example, might build confidence in you on the part of someone who is hiring.
Importantly, you also need to protect your brand. That might mean turning down opportunities to raise your profile because they might undermine your efforts elsewhere – either because they are unrelated to what you are focussing on, or because they would mean you are spread too thinly and your performance dips as a result. And protecting your brand means you need to be committed to do something well once the right opportunity does present itself. For example, your first arbitral appointment might be low value and modestly paid, but you still need to acquit yourself well so that you are considered for subsequent, better appointments.
3. Make the most out of your CIArb membership
The great value of CIArb membership is that it gives you opportunities to do all of these things. You can raise your profile by attending CIArb seminars and by writing articles for its publications. You can meet specific people at its social events. You can build your brand by joining its committees. Many of these opportunities can be found elsewhere of course but only CIArb offers you all of them under one roof.
But you need to take full advantage of your membership. That involves actively engaging with CIArb and its activities and progressing through its qualifications. And once you have gained the CIArb qualifications, you need to think about how best to use them. CIArb fellowship, for example, does not automatically lead to appointments as an arbitrator but it can open the door to opportunities for appointments, such as qualifying you for membership of various panels of arbitrators. You should also use the post-nominals (ACIArb, MCIArb, FCIArb and C.Arb) as part of your brand: displaying them on your LinkedIn profile, for instance.
Finally, time is an important element in all of this. You build your network and your brand, and you make the most out of your CIArb membership, through sustained efforts over a period of time. Along the way you are likely to come across further - and perhaps unexpected - opportunities, and new directions. Careers in arbitration are as individual as the people pursuing them and are as rewarding as the efforts invested in them, over time.
Ben Giaretta C.Arb FCIArb is the current Chair of CIArb’s London Branch. He has been a member of the London Branch Committee since 2017, and before becoming the Chair was the Honorary Secretary of the Branch. He has also been the Honorary Treasurer of the Singapore Branch Committee.