International arbitration lawyers involved exclusively in the practice of international arbitration will operate within a specific legal framework and gain legal and practical knowledge specifically related to arbitration disputes.
While lawyers engaged in international arbitrations in the second half of the 20th century were most often complex commercial litigation lawyers, the benefits of international commercial arbitration coupled with the frequent inclusion of international arbitration agreements in commercial contracts and the exponential use of international arbitration institutions to regulate procedural and administrative matters have led to the emergence of a special class of International arbitration lawyers whose practice relates exclusively to international commercial and investor-state arbitration.
International arbitration lawyers are expected to be knowledgeable in the following domains and areas:
First, clients will expect International arbitration lawyers to be familiar with the enforcement mechanisms, in particular the New York Convention of 1958 considered by many as the most successful private international law treaty. Its purpose is to encourage and facilitate the use, the portability and enforceability of international arbitration agreements and international arbitration awards. All contracting states are therefore required to recognize and enforce these agreements and awards, subject only to very limited exceptions.
Second, international arbitration lawyers must be familiar with the domestic statutory framework regulating the conduct of arbitration proceedings and the recognition and enforcement of arbitration agreements and arbitral awards. These domestic statutes implement the New York Convention at the national level and elaborate on it. The most important instrument is the UNCITRAL Model Law (1985 and 2006) adopted by many countries directly as the domestic arbitration law or used as a model. The UNCITRAL Model Law particularizes the New York Convention legal framework and contains provisions dealing with, inter alia, competence-competence (Article 16), judicial provisional measures (Article 17), the appointment and challenges to arbitrators (Articles 10-15), setting aside and annulment of awards (Article 34), etc.
Third, international arbitration lawyers must know that there are some principles and concepts dealt with in the New York Convention and/or domestic statutes which became part of a more global arbitration law. Such principles include the separability doctrine (according to which the arbitration agreement is a stand alone contract within the underlying contract that contains it and which it will survive in the event that the underlying contract is declared nul), arbitrable and non-arbitrable subject matters (e.g. family and criminal matters are often non-arbitrable under domestic law), the formal and substantive validity of arbitration agreements,
Fourthly, international arbitration lawyers must recognize the vital importance of the choice of the arbitral seat in particular because the national courts of the jurisdiction where the seat is located are the exclusive forum for the annulment and set aside of the award, and for the appointment, challenge and removal of the arbitrators. The choice of the seat also matters to the extent that the domestic arbitration law will further provide for the applicable legal framework and regulate the conduct of the proceedings.
It is also expected of international arbitration lawyers to be able to determine which arbitration institutional rules are most appropriate for specific disputes and soft law such as the IBA Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest, IBA Rules on Taking evidence, IBA Guidelines in Party Representation, etc.