Richard Perry

Just another blog about nothing

Absent Without Leave - Changes...

Diploma in Arbitration

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  1. Absent Without Leave - Changes with Work
  2. Diploma in Arbitration

Ever since I was at Uni, I have had an interest in the legal side of construction. Excluding my dissertation, I got my best marks in all the legal modules and generally enjoyed them the most. Then when I was working with BAM Construction Ltd I got some first hand experience dealing with a construction claim, although it was settled without going to adjudication.

When I found out I was going to be made redundant, I realised that I may end up having some time on my hands between jobs. I figured it would therefore be a good time to start looking into the options for further study relating to alternative dispute resolution. That was when I decided to do the RICS Diploma in Arbitration distance learning course. It was an 18 month course that started on 10th January 2018 and I thought I would at least have plenty of time for some of the first module given the work situation.

However, as mentioned in my previous article, I managed to find work again fairly quickly so I didn’t end up with a period of time in which to study. Thankfully, my first commission was the other side of the country and I was due to travel there by train, every week, for a period of approximately 16 months. This meant that I would actually have a fair amount of free time whilst sat on the train and in the hotel in Hatfield :slightly_smiling_face:. So it all worked out quite well really.

The first module was The Law of Obligations and covered most of the first year of a law degree, excluding criminal law, in 6 months. It was great to be studying again, even if it was pretty intense. There was a huge amount of information to digest and understand and a lot of case law to learn, but thanks to the extra time I had available with the Hatfield project, I was able to get through it all in time for the assignment and exam at the end. However, it was at this point that I realised the 12 week marking period set by the RICS was going to be painful. We submitted the assignment 4 weeks before the exam, then had to wait 12 weeks after the exam for any kind of result. This felt like the longest wait in history and was fairly agonising as we had no idea whether we were on the right track or not before submitting our assignment for the next module. And when the results came out it was simply pass or fail, no mark or anything. Did we scrape through, or pass with flying colours?? Anyway, I passed that module so I guess it didn’t really matter.

The next module was split into 2 halves:

  1. Arbitration Law and the Law of Evidence; and
  2. Arbitration Practice and Procedure.

Each half of the module included an assignment and an exam and ran for a period of 4 months. This was where things really got interesting though. Although the course was technically limited to domestic (UK) arbitration we touched on some international arbitration law as well so it was brilliant. We found that domestic arbitration is governed by the Arbitration Act 1996 and that particular act is incredibly well written. It clearly sets out a very good default set of rules for running an arbitration, defines the duties of everyone involved and hasn’t been amended in over 20 years, other than incorporating other legislation changes. This single document is more important for domestic arbitrators than any other. Again, I agonised over the results as this was all completely new to me and I didn’t know if I had understood it correctly or not. It was worse given we submitted the assignment for the second half of the module before we had the results for the first. This could have meant re-sitting both modules if we had the wrong end of the stick in the first place. Thankfully, we all got through it so we must have done something right :thumbsup:.

The final module was Arbitration Drafting, Award Writing and Evidence so was obviously the most important module in the whole course. We had to learn how to assess the evidence, make judgements and write clear, concise, enforceable awards. Unfortunately, part way through this module my work away changed meaning I had a lot less spare time to devote to my studies. This made the module much harder not only because of the content, but also because of the time management issues involved. Over the course of the module, we had to produce 3 practice awards for different disputes so that we could understand the process. Each of these awards took a significant amount of time to properly review, assess and then draft and I definitely found it much more difficult fitting this one in, but by the time I submitted my third practice award, I was feeling fairly confident about award writing.

The exam for this last module was due to be a fairly gruelling ordeal, and unfortunately, due to the very nature of the assessment method, was not going to represent real world conditions in any way. We were to receive a bundle of documents 1 week in advance of the exam to enable us to prepare and start working on our award, then on the day we would receive a second bundle of documents. We then had 1 hour for reading through the new documents and 4 hours to finish the award. It all sounds fairly good until you realise that it took me an average of about 15 hours to draft each of the practice awards so I knew I had to get my preparation right. I decided to take the week off work so I could concentrate on getting it right, although I think this may have contributed to the problems I had given I ended up over thinking things and over analysing the evidence we already had. By the end of the exam, I felt that I had completely messed up the entire thing. I thought I had got confused by the new documents received that morning and on talking to the others, I was convinced. I knew that it would be 12 weeks before the result was out so I put it to the back of my mind knowing I would be re-sitting later in the year.

Well, 12 weeks came and went and all we knew was the results would be delayed due to the external examiners. At this point I was nervous again, but we finally received the results on 8th October, 14 weeks after the exam. I couldn’t believe, I had passed :relieved:. The feedback I had confirmed that this was not the best award I had written, but I had passed so I was over the moon!

It was a long and difficult 18 months, but in the end it was worth it. In general, I thoroughly enjoyed learning everything could about arbitration. Since completing the course, I have applied for, sat and passed the Peer Interview for Fellowship of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators meaning I was admitted as a Fellow on 9th December 2019. I am now able to actually work as an arbitrator, therefore it is time to try to put my new found knowledge into practice :slightly_smiling_face:!

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