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The Professionalization of International Arbitrators: Past, Present, and Prospects

Speaker: Fernando Dias Simões, Associate Professor of Law at Lusíada University and Portucalense University, in Porto (Portugal)

Moderator: Stephen Minas, Professor of Law, Peking University School of Transnational Law

Date & Time: February 22, 2024 (Thursday), 7:00 PM (Beijing Time)

Location (In-Person Presentation): STL 301

Language: English

Abstract: International arbitration (both commercial and investor-state) is increasingly professionalized. While arbitrators have traditionally regulated themselves through uncontested soft law instruments, those appointed to adjudicate investment disputes face growing scrutiny and suspicion. Many stakeholders believe that the system’s institutional design creates perverse economic incentives, leading adjudicators to adopt strategic behaviours and biasing their decision-making processes. UNCITRAL’s discussion on a draft code of conduct for arbitrators in investment disputes represents a shift from self- to external regulation of this sector of legal practice. Since the arbitral community did not effectively address perceived market deficiencies, the codification process is now led by governments, not professionals. This is a close-knit community where boundaries between legal professions are blurred and some individuals wear different hats. The establishment of stricter ethical standards may set clearer limits to the ‘jurisdiction’ of each profession, fostering market specialisation and segmentation. The adoption of a code of conduct may also be followed by other traditional markers of professionalization. Without engaging in futurology, this presentation argues that this reform will have a significant impact on the community of lawyers involved in the resolution of international disputes and reshape the way they interact with each other.

Short Bio: Fernando DIAS SIMÕES is Associate Professor of Law at Lusíada University and Portucalense University, in Porto (Portugal). He lived and worked in China for eleven years, first at the University of Macau (2011-2018) and later at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (2019-2022), where he was also Deputy Program Director of the LLM in International Economic Law. Professor Dias Simões holds a PhD from the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain), an LLM from the University of Glasgow (United Kingdom), and a bachelor degree from the University of Coimbra (Portugal). His research interests include international arbitration (both commercial and investment) and investment law, with sporadic incursions into other areas of international law. He has carried out research stays at academic institutions in the United States, Canada, China, Australia, Luxembourg, and Sweden; received research grants in Hong Kong, Macau and Spain; and coordinated research projects funded by the European Commission.

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