Dua Lipa’s ‘New Rules’ has had more than two billion views on YouTube. It may take a while before the new LCAM Expedited Arbitration Rules gain that level of popularity but they have the ingredients to make them an attractive option for businesses looking to resolve smaller and less complex disputes quickly and cost effectively.
The self-contained procedure is pared down to the essentials and is designed for low-value cases and for those that turn on a single issue. It provides for one arbitrator, written submissions with word limits, evidence to be kept short and delivered with the submissions, no hearing, and no cross-examination of witnesses. The ‘documents only’ procedure means that parties and their lawyers (if appointed) can fit the case into their busy schedules. The rules recognise, though, that occasionally a problem in the proceedings can be resolved quickly by a video meeting, something which people have become used to during the pandemic. These are permitted but full hearings with witnesses are not. A contract could provide in advance that the rules will be used for claims up to a certain amount, say £100,000. Equally, the parties could make an agreement to submit their dispute to LCAM expedited arbitration after it has arisen. In fact, the rules would work particularly well if both sides already know what their dispute looks like when they agree to use them.
Arbitration is supposed to be quicker than litigation in court but it can be slowed down by arbitrators on three-member panels having to compare diaries to find suitable dates for the hearing on the merits, as well as by elaborate procedures, and more hearings, to deal with evidence. Under the LCAM Expedited Arbitration Rules, the case is put into the hands of a sole arbitrator with good availability. The exchange of written submissions, with supporting evidence, gets under way immediately. The arbitrator’s award should be issued within six months from the filing of the request for arbitration.
Arbitration should be less expensive than court but it has a cost which court doesn’t: the arbitrator’s fees. Under the LCAM Expedited Arbitration Rules, the arbitrator’s fees and the chamber’s administrative charges are fixed amounts. For a claim up to £100k, that amount is £2,500.00. The prospect of incurring lawyers’ fees can put a business off pursuing a small claim. It isn’t necessary to appoint a lawyer under the rules but if a party does so and goes on to win, it could be awarded costs up to a limit of £4k or £6k, depending on the size of the claim and any counterclaim.
The LCAM Expedited Arbitration procedure is called ‘documents-only’ but it should all be conducted online and no paper should be needed. With no hearings to attend and any meetings taking place virtually, no energy will be wasted.
Arbitration should be quick to adapt and to meet the needs and expectations of its users. The new LCAM Expedited Arbitration Rules fill a gap in the market for simpler, faster, cheaper and greener arbitration.
James Clanchy, LCAM Board Member