Arbitration Tips-N-Tools (TNT): Round 22

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.


Oladeji Tiamiyu

Oladeji M. Tiamiyu is a Clinical Fellow at the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program. Prior to joining HNMCP, Oladeji was an Online Dispute Resolution Fellow with the Resolution Systems Institute in Chicago, Illinois where he helped in developing a pilot online dispute resolution program for family law disputes. Oladeji…


Myriam Seers

Myriam joined Savoie Laporte as a partner in 2021 after practising for 14 years in major Canadian business law firms. She specializes in investment treaty arbitration and international commercial arbitration, with a particular focus on disputes arising from the mining, electricity (including renewable energy), oil & gas and transportation sectors.…


Olof Heggemann

I have a professional background from the Swedish public court system and experience from working in banking and law firms. The idea behind the founding of Eperoto is something that grew during my working years. Having a keen interest in technology I truly believe in the potential of new ways…


Amy Schmitz

Professor Amy Schmitz is the John Deaver Drinko-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. From 2016-2021 Professor Schmitz was the Elwood L. Thomas Missouri Endowed Professor of Law at the University of Missouri School of Law and the Center for Dispute Resolution.…

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