A survey undertaken by the University of Aberdeen has indicated growing interest in the use of arbitration as a means of settling legal disputes since the introduction of new legislation designed to streamline the process in Scotland.
It comes as the University considers the launch of an online LLM course in Dispute Resolution.
The Scottish Arbitration Survey was undertaken in partnership with the Law Society of Scotland and Scottish law firm Burness Paull LLP to collect statistical information on the number of disputes dealt with under the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010.
Arbitration is a ‘private litigation’ process which is used to resolve disputes outside the courts, where the parties involved appoint a judge to review the evidence and impose a legally-binding decision that is enforceable.
With the previous arbitration regime in Scotland considered unfit for purpose, the new legislation aims to streamline the process and make Scotland an attractive location for international arbitration.
The joint survey provides the first snapshot of arbitration activity since the Act came into operation in 2010, while also capturing attitudes towards the new regime.
In total, 22 arbitrations took place in the period from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014, covering a range of values from less than £10,000 to over £1,000,000. In addition, there were 36 arbitrations involving Scottish arbitrators based outwith Scotland.
The findings of the survey indicate that the Act is having an impact in encouraging arbitration, as companies seek to maintain discretion in their legal affairs and avoid the potentially lengthy process of settling disputes in the public courts.
The growing interest in this area has led the University of Aberdeen to gather views on the introduction of a unique online LLM in Dispute Resolution. The first course of its kind in Scotland, it is aimed at attracting busy professionals who wish to study towards a qualification in this area in their own time and at their own convenience.
Programme co-ordinator Derek Auchie, from the University of Aberdeen’s Law School, said: “Publication of the first Scottish Arbitration Survey has indicated a growing interest in the use of arbitration as a means of settling disputes since the introduction of the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010.
“The confidential nature of the process, combined with the technical expertise of the arbitrators which encourages swifter resolution, has prompted many companies to opt for the arbitration route over the public courts. This has been enhanced by innovations within the Act which encourage greater privacy.
“The survey shows that the traditional areas of construction and property still dominate the subject matter of arbitrations, however agricultural disputes also feature significantly, and there is evidence of arbitrations being used in new areas, such as family disputes.
“So while it is too early to assess the full impact of the Act, there are encouraging signs to suggest that arbitration will become an increasingly important process in Scotland and internationally in years to come.
“It is with this in mind that the University is gauging interest in the introduction of a unique new online LLM in Dispute Resolution, which will allow for flexible and convenient part-time study.
“This programme is geared towards busy professionals who are involved in doing business or representing clients where there is scope for a dispute, and we will aim for accreditation by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and other industry bodies. We already deliver an on-campus course which is CIArb accredited, so this would be a natural expansion in this area.
“I would encourage anyone who is involved in arbitration, negotiation or mediation as part of their professional life to consider registering their interest in this qualification as a means of enhancing their career prospects or adding value to their current role.”