It’s our pleasure today to publish this post by 2 Georgia Law students, Johann Ebongom, an LL.M. candidate, and Brian Griffin, a member of the J.D. Class of 2019 and a Dean Rusk International Law Center Student Ambassador. Johann and Brian recently took part in the 5th annual conference of AtlAS, the Atlanta International Arbitration Society. Along with another student whose post will appear tomorrow, they served as rapporteurs for a roundtable on “Recent Developments in International Arbitration,” featuring attorneys Edward A. Marshall (JD’02) (Arnall Golden), Eric D. Johnson (CARE), Kirk W. Watkins (JD’75) (Womble Carlyle), and moderated by Randall F. Hafer (Kilpatrick Townsend). Reflecting on this panel, Johann (top left) and Brian (lower left) write:
Atlanta, Georgia, is fast becoming a preferred seat for international dispute resolution. This is in part due to the efforts of the Atlanta International Arbitration Society (AtlAS), whose primary goal is to promote Atlanta as a venue for the resolution of international commercial and investment disputes. AtlAS hosts an annual conference in pursuit of this goal, and so provides a forum where practitioners, experts, and others interested in international arbitration can network and exchange ideas related to this rapidly evolving field.
We had the privilege to represent the University of Georgia School of Law as student rapporteurs at the 5th annual AtlAS conference, “International Arbitration in a Not So ‘Flat’ World: Practical Considerations for Counsel and Their Clients.” The particular panel we attended focused on the use of arbitration as a dispute resolution mechanism in the payments-processing, international nonprofit, intellectual property, and construction industries. Here are a few things that we learned from the panelists’ presentations:
► Arbitration is a binding dispute settlement mechanism whose basic concept is that it is beneficial for somebody with a deep understanding of the context of a dispute to decide the outcome of that dispute. The practice of arbitration first came about when merchants decided that they wanted fellow merchants to settle their disputes instead of judges, who often lacked knowledge necessary to fairly settle a dispute in a particular commercial context. These merchants they believed that because other merchants were the people with the best understanding of their particular industry, they were more likely to fairly settle their disputes than anyone else. The practice of arbitration has continued through the ages, but arbitrators in this day and age are almost always lawyers with expertise in a particular field. However, non-lawyer industry experts still play a vital role by providing information that helps the arbitrators decide the case.
► The payments-processing industry facilitates use of credit and debit cards. When someone uses a credit or debit card, the payment must first pass through a processor to get from the bank to the receiving business. Most disputes in this industry are currently resolved through litigation, but experts in the field see value in moving clients to arbitration. Litigation is often cost prohibitive and the public forum is an inhospitable place to settle disputes in the payments processing industry in general. The confidentiality of arbitration would be a great benefit, as it would allow companies to better protect consumer data.
► In relation to international nonprofit organizations, disputes generally arise between the charity and private companies, governments, or employees. However, formal disputes are not common in the non-profit industry, and when they do arise charities tend to favor courtrooms over arbitration. This is because charities are often seen as sympathetic parties, which can increases their chances of winning a judgment in court as opposed to arbitration. However, international charities often find it hard to get a balanced approach in foreign courts, as they are often subject to local bias and trust issues while litigating in foreign legal systems. Arbitration might be the solution for international organizations looking for a fair resolution to disputes arising in foreign countries.
►There are many opportunities for arbitration to be utilized in the intellectual property industry. As the cost of litigation rises, more businesses are electing to pursue cost-effective means of dispute resolution, like arbitration, in lieu of protecting their rights in court. That said, generally three categories of disputes arise in the IP industry:
- In the first, the two parties are unknown to each other before the dispute arises. In this situation, one party is usually alleging that the other party has infringed upon their patent rights, and they go to court to settle their dispute.
- In the second, parties have a contractual relationship. This can be between licensor-licensee, manufacturer-distributor, or supplier-purchaser. Because of the prevalence of arbitration clauses in contracts, these disputes are often settled through arbitration.
- In the final category, companies lack agreements between themselves, but work in the same industry. Typically these companies are not likely to arbitrate; however, given that litigation is very expensive, some companies do arbitrate in order to keep their legal costs down.
► The construction industry is worth many trillions of dollars worldwide. International construction projects often produce massive and complex disputes that usually cost more than is necessary and take longer than they should. The construction industry has traditionally looked for alternative ways to settle disputes. Arbitration is quicker and cheaper than going to court, and still provides an enforceable resolution to the dispute, making it preferable to other more traditional methods of dispute resolution like litigation. Arbitration is also valuable in that it provides the ability to have a dispute decided by others working in the same industry, as most construction clients would prefer that arbitrators knowledgeable about the construction industry decide their case instead of a judge or a jury with no knowledge of the industry.
Attending this year’s AtlAS Conference was an enriching experience. We learned about the use of arbitration as a dispute settlement mechanism in the context of four different industries and we took full advantage of the opportunity to meet and network with practitioners and experts in this rapidly growing field, many of whom were willing to share their experiences and impart helpful advice in regards to our academic journey at the University of Georgia School of Law. In doing so, we forged important professional relationships that we hope will last for many years to come. Finally, we thank Georgia Law for this wonderful opportunity to represent our law school at this important and highly educational event.