In this round of Arbitration Tips-N-Tools, Professor Amy Schmitz asks some of the leading arbitration practitioners about building rapport with parties during online arbitration (OArb), especially in a digital world, and faced with the complexities of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Round 22: What are your 3 top tips and/or tools to build rapport with parties during online arbitration (OArb)?
A) Olof Heggemann –
The best way to build rapport is by making parties understand they are talking to someone professional that has done their homework. Even though the tribunal or legal representatives have read all the material and understand the relationship between the parties, the parties still may not know this. Sometimes even clearly stating that “I’ve/We’ve read what you wrote about X or Y” will ease their mind and win their trust. This can also make the hearings more efficient, as parties won’t repeat what has already been written.
Many witnesses are very happy to hear that someone is interested in what they’ve written in a technical report or about their specialty. There is nothing wrong with letting them know you have a professional interest in what they do or who they are.
Attention to detail is key. Bringing up details from the case will make parties understand that no stones have been left untouched. On the other hand, most parties also understand that it is impossible to keep all the details in order during a big case. There is nothing wrong with showing a human side, asking for clarifications, or a recap of something already in the material if this is needed.
B) Oladeji M. Tiamiyu –
With less of your body shown, the visible part of your body becomes even more important for non-verbal communication in OArb. Be mindful of this and try to use the visible non-verbal cues in an engaging manner.
Cutting off participants during in-person arbitration is already awkward enough. The awkwardness is amplified to a whole new degree in OArb so try to limit this. In addition to being awkward, the minimum non-verbal communication in OArb can lead to participants over-analyzing an arbitrator cutting them off. This makes patience a critical asset to build rapport.
In online processes, there can be a temptation to make streamlining the process a primary aim. This should be resisted when trying to build rapport. Provide ample time for parties to fully explain the context and ensure that you, as the arbitrator, identify the nuances in the proceedings.
C) Myriam Seers –
#1 have the first procedural meeting early in the process,
#2 make sure it is by video conference and not just over the phone, and
#3 make sure the parties themselves attend.
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