Mr Ben Giaretta jointly heads the International Arbitration Practice at Fox Williams and has represented clients in disputes across wide range of sectors including construction, energy, natural resources, technology, commodities, etc. In addition to this, he is the Chair of the London Branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb). Apart from his role as an arbitrator and an arbitration counsel, he chaired the Drafting Committee which prepared the new CIArb Guideline on Technology in Arbitration. He has been recently recognised as a Global Leader by Who’s Who Legal Arbitration 2022 Guide.
He has been interviewed by Arijit Sanyal, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from New Law College, BVDU Pune.
- Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I am a partner at Fox Williams LLP, based in London. I work in international dispute resolution, which mostly involves international arbitration but I also do some English court litigation, as well as other forms of ADR such as mediation. I am the Chair of the London Branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, one of the largest branches in the CIArb network.
- Please mention something about your journey from law school to Fox Williams. What activities do you think helped you, when you were at law school?
In my final year at law school, the main thing that I did was read. And not only law reports and textbooks but also books unrelated to law (both fiction and non-fiction). The ability to focus for a sustained period of time absorbing information – a “flow state”, as described by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – is very important whatever area of the law you work in. It also helped develop my awareness of the importance of context for any legal issue, as well as my prose style. These are vital skills in a legal career.
- What motivated you to pursue a career in dispute resolution?
When I was a junior lawyer, I was told by one of the partners that I worked for that qualifying into dispute resolution would give me great variety in my career. He was right. I have worked on disputes all across the world, and in a huge range of sectors.
- You have had the chance to be an arbitrator as well as represent clients in arbitration proceedings. What challenges do you think are unique to both these roles?
These are very different roles. Representing a client, you have to get close to them, and really understand how their business works. This can sometimes be a great challenge because it may be a sector that you know very little about, and you also have to move from client to client throughout your day. On the other hand, being an arbitrator can be a very solitary profession. Much of the time you are working by yourself, when you are reviewing papers or drafting awards and orders. And when you are in company, such as at a hearing, you are very conscious that there is a barrier between you and most of the other people present. You can only speak freely with your co-arbitrators (if you are on a three-person tribunal). The other contrast between the two is that, as I was once told, “counsel talk, arbitrators listen”. Very different skill sets are required.
- You have had the chance to preside over as an emergency arbitrator on multiple counts. Are we there yet, where emergency arbitration proceedings can replace traditional interim relief applications?
There is little chance, at least as things currently stand, of emergency arbitration replacing interim relief in national courts. Emergency arbitration is a limited tool. It can be useful in some situations, but in others there is no real option but to go to a national court.
- You are aware that a lot of students from South Asia and India in particular aspire to work as solicitors in the UK. What are the paths before them, considering they do not have an LLM degree from the UK?
It is important to remember that all law firms, and all offices within law firm networks, are both international and domestic. Despite what the marketing says, there is no such thing as an “international law firm”. Many law firms in England are very international in their outlook, but they are all still rooted in their domestic market and their national traditions. So the best way to have a sustained career in a law firm in England is to train here and spend years immersing yourself in the culture. Otherwise all you can do is to look out for occasional opportunities – which do come up, but are rare. The path that I would recommend therefore is to apply to be a paralegal or a trainee solicitor at a firm in England, and pursue qualification here; or else obtain a junior qualified position and be prepared to work for several years before your career really takes off.
- Technology has become a crucial aspect of international arbitration over the last couple of years. As a practitioner, what challenges do you feel needs to be addressed in the same?
Technology has always been a part of international dispute resolution, going back to the telephone and the telegraph. What has shifted in recent decades has been the pace of change. We are now seeing more technology coming into our working lives more quickly than in the past, and lawyers today have to be more ready to adapt than their predecessors. The best way to get to grips with any technology is to immerse yourself in it; but you also have to be ready to move on and learn a new technology when the next development comes along. We all need to look to the horizon.
- The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators has recently published a set of guidelines for the use of technology in international arbitration. What effect do you think, it will have on international arbitration proceedings considering the fact that guidelines may not be binding?
The guidelines were always intended to be a conversation starter, and to raise awareness of the issues that people face when using arbitration. Since our engagement with technology is very isolated (we sit by ourselves staring at a computer screen), we can easily forget the different perspectives people have depending on where they are in the world. For example, it might not occur to a native English speaker that the technologies they use are not available in a country where English is not widely spoken, or not available in the local language. The guideline is an encouragement for all of us working in international arbitration to think about the varied approaches to and impacts of technology, across the globe.
- Lastly, what advice do you have for law students and fresh graduates, who aspire to pursue a career in dispute resolution and are looking towards international arbitration in particular?
Dispute resolution, like all aspects of law, is a very people-centred activity. Clients engage people not corporations, and you build a career in private practice by making and sustaining personal connections. Disputes are between people in their daily lives, and you understand cases that you are working on, as well as cases reported from the courts, by working hard to understand the perspectives of the people involved. So a law student and fresh graduate must always be curious about the world and the people in it. They must get out and about as much as they can, and engage with others.