There’s no doubt that Shai Wade, Head of International Arbitration at law firm RPC, relished his visit to Johannesburg, South Africa, where Africa Legal and the UK Ministry of Justice, under the umbrella of the GREAT Legal Services Campaign, recently held a series of events. For Wade, the key take away from the roundtable discussions is the importance of respectful partnerships when collaborating with colleagues in Africa.
“I learned a great deal from the discussions, and from hearing what people liked and disliked most about working with international law firms when they have international matters,” he says.
With collaboration between RPC and African law firms dating back more than 20 years, Wade says maintaining good relations has been their key strategy.
As an arbitrator, he is also familiar with what works best for a particular jurisdiction, and shares his perspective on why it makes sense for a lawyer from an African region to lead a case pertaining to their country rather than a colleague who isn’t from that region.
Wade and Pearson discuss some key global trends that Africa has mirrored, one of them being the issue of diversity, and how this is being carefully considered in the context of tribunals and in advocacy teams.
Having a local arbitrator. or one that has expertise in a particular area. helps the tribunal find the correct answer for the circumstances it’s facing, says Wade, highlighting that the law can be applied harshly if it is taken out of the correct context.
He points out that the other noticeable international trend which is lively in Africa, is the introduction and enthusiasm for regional arbitral institutions. “That is something which we have seen developed with great success in Singapore, Hong Kong and the UAE – Dubai in particular – and is emerging in Africa as well.”
Wade says a robust and stable legal framework, as well as good legal services and hearing facilities are important elements that support the arbitral system. He also shared with Pearson his view on why clients prefer to go through arbitration rather than litigation, narrowing it down to time and cost.
Moving the focus to RPC, Wade says they’re known to be a “conflict-free firm and a disputes powerhouse” which fits aptly into their company’s strategy. “Our conflict-free strategy means that we actively do not engage with the panels of international investment banks. We are not on their panels, and we are not on the panels of many of the major energy firms or infrastructure firms of the multinational construction companies, and so we are free to sue them.”
The enlightening conversation ends with Wade offering advice to aspirant arbitrators.
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