My First Arbitral Appointment: Breaking Barriers to Diversity and Inclusion Panel

On November 15, 2023, Linklaters LLP hosted a very well-attended panel in partnership with Racial Equality for Arbitration Lawyers (REAL), the Rising Arbitrators Initiative (RAI), New York and London Arbitration (NYLON) entitled “My First Arbitral Appointment: Breaking Barriers to Diversity and Inclusion in International Arbitration,” during New York Arbitration Week. The distinguished panel of arbitrators, moderated by Charlene Valdez Warner (Linklaters), included: Amanda J. Lee (LML Arbitration), Carlos E. Martínez Bentanzos (Fonseca Rodríguez Perchemilian and Martínez Abogados), Frederico Singarajah (Gatehouse Chambers), and Ema Vidak Friedman (Vidak Arbitration).

The panel’s goal according to Charlene, “to discuss initial arbitral appointments, breaking barriers to international arbitration, approaches to diversity within international arbitration” touched upon several key themes including: beginning one’s career as an arbitrator and methods to secure arbitral appointments; demonstrating qualifications and leveraging diversity to secure appointments; approaches to arbitrating as a diverse arbitrator; and what it means to “belong” in the field of international arbitration.

Each panelist was asked to describe how they received their first arbitral appointment. Frederico spoke about how he leveraged his Brazilian background with his education as an English barrister to first receive appointments in Brazil, which eventually turned into appointments in the UK. Ema emphasized the importance of having credentials that demonstrate your intelligence, whether through your education, your counsel work, or publications, and described her first appointment as a party-appointed arbitrator. Carlos explained how he used his education and work experience in the United States as a bridge for his practice in Mexico for disputes involving international elements. Amanda discussed seeking opportunities for appointments outside of the larger arbitral institutions and building your profile as an arbitrator.

Carlos discussed the challenges surrounding arbitrating in Mexico, where in some cases, arbitration proves to be heavily male-dominated and noted that arbitrators “have an obligation to mentor others to ensure that there are no excuses to not appoint certain diverse arbitrators.” Similarly, the distinguished panelists were asked to provide guidance to prospective diverse arbitrators. The panelists emphasized the importance of studying and mastering industry vernacular ahead of industry-specific arbitrations, encouraging junior advocates to take on speaking roles early in their careers, leveraging one’s language and cultural competency to bridge the gap between cultural and legal issues, and remembering the importance of receiving and providing mentorship. 

Diversity and Inclusion Panel