27 Aug 2021
You’ve made the exciting decision to become an adjudicator and now you want to get your new career off the ground. This short piece is designed to give you some initial thoughts to consider when working towards that first appointment and beyond.
As an adjudicator you are your own professional brand and you have sole responsibility for developing that brand and reputation within the industry.
A key skill you must have as an adjudicator is professionalism and you must always continue to display the key attributes of this. An adjudicator must have, and continually demonstrate, high ethical standards and conduct the role with honesty and integrity. An adjudicator should remain impartial and uphold the rules of the dispute resolution process throughout.
Those appointing you, either the parties directly or through a referral from an Adjudicator Nominating Body (‘ANB’) such as the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb), will want an adjudicator who has knowledge and experience of the matter in dispute. When considering an appointment opportunity, you should think about what your knowledge of the disputed subject area is and the experiences you have had. This should not deter you from taking any appointment you are satisfied is within your capabilities, but you may wish to consider prior to accepting any appointment; why would a party find you an appropriate person to resolve their dispute?
You will also want to undertake formal training to gain knowledge and understanding of the role and practicalities of being an adjudicator. To maintain high standards in their own panels many ANB’s require you to demonstrate you have the knowledge and skills to be an adjudicator through undertaking a relevant qualification. By successfully obtaining one of these qualifications, you will demonstrate to others you have acquired the necessary knowledge of the role of an adjudicator at an industry recognised standard.
Once you have undertaken your initial training, it is expected that you will continue to undertake further relevant training and continue acquiring knowledge. This can be through further formalised training or Continuing Professional Development (CPD). CPD is provided through a variety of formats, including formalised events, i.e. seminars, webinars etc., or informally through continued reading of relevant materials.</p.
When you combine all of the above, you have the baseline of your brand as an adjudicator. Parties will be looking to you to lead the process and to keep up to date with developments in your field, the relevant law and the requirements of an adjudicator.
Developing and maintaining a good professional brand and reputation is key to receiving that first appointment and obtaining further opportunities. Your reputation and how you perform as an adjudicator will breed confidence in the parties and ANB’s in your dispute resolving abilities.
In building your brand the value of networking and making contacts in the industry cannot be underestimated. Developing a wide range of professional relationships will allow you to share knowledge and learn from others in the same field. Whilst recently this has been difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic; once it is safe to do so, attending face to face seminars, conferences and other relevant events is a good way to meet new people and get your name out there as a dispute resolver.
You may find it useful to attend a variety of events hosted by relevant organisations to expand your networking reach and share/develop a range of ideas from numerous sources. One option is through the CIArb and its Young Members Group branches, which host numerous seminars and social events allowing members and non-members to get together to build their networks. Whilst you are attending these events don’t be afraid to speak to others and ask questions, many attendees will be more than willing to have a conversation.
The use of online forums and social media can assist with promoting yourself as an adjudicator, in particular LinkedIn. This could be through writing engaging articles or posts on relevant topics which other practitioners can read; or sharing your thoughts and values through contributing to relevant posts authored by others.
Building and engaging with your network of contacts is vital in promoting yourself within the marketplace. Making yourself visible to the wider adjudication community, demonstrating you have a good knowledge and understanding of the skillsets required to be an adjudicator, and demonstrating your commitment to the role can go a long way to building your brand and securing your first appointment.
You’ve started building your brand as an adjudicator, demonstrated your competence for the role and are ready to take on that first appointment; but how do you go about obtaining one?
Ideally, you would be able to obtain direct party appointments once you are satisfied in your competence to take on an appointment or would be able to join the main ANB adjudication panels. If these options are not open to you immediately, then there are other ways to try and obtain that first appointment or some relevant experience.
One route is through applying to ANB panels to receive appointments on their Low Value Adjudication Schemes (or alternatives). One example is the Construction Industry Council Low Value Disputes Model Adjudication Procedure (CIC LVD MAP). These schemes typically deal with disputes of values of less than £100,000 (each scheme sets a different limit), usually on a document’s only basis, and place restrictions on the costs which can be expended on the process. The number of these schemes has increased in recent years due to the popularity of the adjudication process and it can be a good avenue to obtaining that first appointment.
The role of experienced adjudicators as mentors could be useful in providing you with opportunities to shadow them throughout the process and provide experience in producing draft directions or awards. Agreement will be required from the parties to the dispute to enable you to shadow an appointed adjudicator. Industry Leaders are usually willing to offer guidance and support to those who show willing and initiative in trying to develop themselves in the role.
Experience of the adjudication process could be obtained through party representation or expert witness work. This will enable you to understand the processes the parties go through during an adjudication and give you experience of how adjudicators communicate with parties and write their directions / decisions. Whilst this may not be the first appointment you want; it will help you develop skills and an understanding of the process for when that first appointment arrives.
Above all be patient and keep persevering, it may take time to obtain that first appointment, but keep doing the right things to build your brand and it will come. The industry requires people like you to become the next generation of adjudicators.
Four potential steps to your first appointment:
1. Develop key skills and attributes
For example:- professionalism, high ethical standards, honesty and integrity.
2. Acquire and maintain your knowledge
Through formal training and Continuing Professional Development.
3. Build your brand and contacts
Through networking, attending events from relevant organisations and raising your profile via social media.
4. Get relevant experience
Join an ANB panel, seek a mentor and/or act as a party representative or expert witness.
Tom Hawkins FCIArb, Associate, Arcadis