The London Chamber of Arbitration and Mediation (“LCAM”) has been founded under the auspices of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (“LCCI”), the capital’s largest independent business network and business support organisation, to provide efficient, innovative and cost-effective alternative dispute resolution services to the business community.

In order to fulfil its objectives, the LCAM sets out specific provisions in its 2021 Rules of Arbitration (“LCAM Rules”) to better manage the time limits at the beginning of the arbitration. Unlike other arbitral institutions, which have been reported for being excessively generous in terms of time limits, the LCAM Rules empower the Board and/or the Secretariat to fix time limits taking into account the type/nature of the dispute, the jurisdiction involved, and other factors.

Some of the leading arbitral institutions establish a fixed time period for the Respondent to file the Answer to the Request for Arbitration (30 days for the ICC, 28 days for the LCIA, and 14 days for the SIAC). In some arbitral institutions’ rules, this is also the case for a reply to a counterclaim (30 days for the ICC). However, depending on the specific features of the case, these time periods can be too short or too long, which either creates unnecessary requests for time extensions, or lengthens time periods that could be shorter, which can be abused by parties which wish to delay proceedings. In the authors’ experience, such parties will also seek to take advantage of the provisions in many sets of rules for these initial deadlines to be expanded, even where the underlying dispute has been the subject of contention between the parties and the underlying factual and legal issues are fully understood.

On the one hand, when the dispute involves only two parties (one claimant and one defendant), both located in the same country, and it is related to one single agreement, a fixed time period of 30 days to file an answer to the request for arbitration may appear too long. On the other hand, in a case between multiple parties, from different jurisdictions, involving multiple contracts, the same 30 days may sound extremely short.

Adopting a more flexible approach, Article 4.1 of the LCAM Rules states that “the Secretariat shall set a time period within which the Respondent shall submit an Answer”. As for replies to counterclaims, Article 4.2, second part, provides that “the Claimant shall be given an opportunity to submit comments on the Answer”, within the time period established by the Board / Secretariat in accordance with the particularities of the case.

This flexibility gives the LCAM the opportunity to manage the process efficiently and set a time limit perfectly aligned to the particularities of the case. Under the LCAM Rules, the time period of the first example mentioned above could be fixed to 15 days, and the time period of the second example to 45 days, speeding up the commencement of the arbitration and, therefore, bringing more efficiency to the case. The same flexibility applies to the time limit for filing the answer to any counterclaim made by the respondent.

Of course, it does not prevent the parties from requesting the Board to extend time where that is necessary. As set forth in Article 6.1, “the Board may, on application by either party or on its own motion, extend any time period which has been set for a party to comply with a particular direction”.

This possibility to set up the time limits according to the particularities of the case is just one of the measures taken by the LCAM to ensure an efficient, innovative and cost-effective arbitration. In the authors’ view, this satisfies two of the intended hallmarks of arbitration as a dispute resolution mechanism: efficiency, and flexibility.

Mark Grasso, Partner, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Andre Luis Monteiro, Of Counsel, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan