#10QuestionswithMaxwell Interview Series: Andrew Moran QC, Independent Arbitrator
In this #10QuestionsWithMaxwell interview, we feature Andrew Moran QC, an independent, full-time, international commercial arbitrator, with over 30 years’ experience as arbitrator and judge, in the determination of an extremely wide range of commercial and maritime disputes. His primary office and base is at The Arbitration Chambers of Singapore in Maxwell Chambers; he also has bases from which he arbitrates in the UK (London), where he is a member of 6 Pump Court Chambers, and Continental Europe (Spain). He was in practice for over 40 years as Counsel. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel nearly 30 years ago and in that role he led teams of lawyers in conducting many complex commercial, civil and maritime cases. He is a Master of the Bench of the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn.
In this interview, he shared how the role of an arbitrator changed since he started his career, his day-to-day routine as an independent arbitrator, a memorable case he handled, and more.
Read his full interview below:
Q: How has the role of an arbitrator changed since you started your career?
A: I sat in my first arbitration over 30 years ago and the role has changed dramatically in that period of time. The arbitrations I did then, took place at the end of the normal working day – done, as it were, by most participants as something apart from the day job! We claim informality of process as a virtue of arbitration in present times, but we have forgotten what true informality was; and how it streamlined decision making in dispute resolution. I reflect on how different an award from those days looked to the modern-day scrutiny-satisfying, procedurally-obsessed and check-list driven, epics of War and Peace proportions, we are all compelled to produce these days (And yes – I have to plead guilty with the rest of my colleagues to sometimes doing what is now the norm and expected!)
Q: How would you describe your day-to-day routine as an independent arbitrator?
A: Presently, and happily decreasing as we get back to more in-person hearings, I sit in front of three computer screens in a grandified traffic policeman’s office in the Red Dot Building (as it will always be to me! – Sorry Maxwell Suites) from morn’ till night, bashing away on a keyboard all manner of acknowledgments, POs, rulings on Document Requests (joy of joys!) and of course the ever present, outstanding awards. Happily, hearings intervene to keep me sane.
Q: What advice would you give to those considering a path as a full-time arbitrator?
A: The first word of advice is “wait”! On the basis that the question assumes you are not full time at present and before you make the leap, you need to get all the experience you can take (note the choice of words) of work as counsel, so you do not hanker for it, after you have taken the plunge. Of course you have to do both, to get to be in a position to make the leap; but the second word of advice is, “Commit”! When you are ready – and only you and/or the market will know when that time comes.
Q: Could you share more about your arbitration style?
A: Probably others are better qualified to say if I even have one! I am not conscious of having a “style” but I do strive always to be fair and be seen to be fair in everything I do at every stage of an arbitration. I also believe in testing a party’s/counsel’s case and argument, and recognize that it can be a difficult line to tread, maintaining fairness of approach and the appearance of fairness. I see it as part of discharging my duty to give a party/counsel a fair hearing, which includes on the difficult issues not being dealt with that may actuate a decision one way or another. Nothing was more infuriating to me or my clients when I acted as counsel, than arbitrators struck dumb in a hearing, who failed to give me an opportunity to deal with a flaw (real or imagined) in my argument, and then gave it weight in an adverse decision.
Q: Without sacrificing confidentially, could you share with us one memorable case you handled?
A: Almost impossible, because any story of memorable arbitrations (which are memorable to many on all sides) runs the risk of the breach of confidentiality one is trying to avoid! Perhaps (since it was a case that was well-publicised and, sadly, was borne of similar cross-border events to those prior to the present war in Ukraine), I can refer to a recent case in which I had to decide if a cross-border terrorist attack and reprisals, leading to disputed threats of war between two major powers, was a force majeure event justifying the withdrawal by a party from performance of its highly public contractual obligations – or just the latest episode in long line of similar incidents and political posturing that would not have led to war. As arbitrators, we sometimes do find ourselves having to determine intractable issues, in which parties are passionately involved, and which are so very far removed from the nice points of law or contract that are our usual fare.
Q: You are a Mentor on our Maxwell Mentorship Programme, what is one piece of invaluable advice you would give to our group of Mentees or other younger legal practitioners in entering the alternative dispute resolution field?
A: I will probably get into trouble for this – because they are the most well-qualified and deserving group that could possibly have been assembled and they are so frighteningly enthusiastic and determinedly serious in their intent to achieve and excel in ADR, deserving of unqualified praise. Nevertheless, I would tell them to lighten up and have some fun! I can also tell them that they can do that, not only without losing their drive and excellence in performing all that they might do, at the start to their careers in ADR, but in order to enhance their performance. I tell them all, you will not survive, as I have done for years I will not count, if at each and any stage of your journey, you cannot see some joy and fun in the work you do, and also have some fun on the side!! Managing Partners of law firms may queue to berate me at their leisure.
Q: What do you think will be the greatest opportunity the next generation of ADR practitioners can expect?
A: Definitely not AI, probably not any radical expansion of types of dispute that are arbitrable, nor any momentous change in rules or procedures (if it ain’t broke don’t try and fix it); but instead, as I hope and believe, opportunity itself. That is, equal and fair opportunity for all to participate and excel in what we do, at all levels and stages on merit, without regard to the different characteristics of aspirants and sometimes odious conventions, that have blighted the grasp by some, of the opportunities that should be available to all.
Q: If you could change one thing about the arbitral system, what would it be?
A: Halt the march towards litigation by another name.
Q: To get to know you more on a personal level, share with us 3 fun facts about yourself.
A: I had to consult my large family and grandchildren to answer this (sad case you may think I am) they reminded me thus:
My previous work experience includes as a milk man, pig farmer, refuse collector, grave digger and (while learning gunnery in the Royal Navy) as a moving target for the US Navy, doing target practice with them in the South China Sea – I don’t call it friendly fire!
Despite this, and also being blown off the deck of a chemical tanker in the Merchant Navy, when a discharge line exploded, I survived; and there is nowhere I am happier and have more fun than at sea with my grandkids – as the photos I was asked to provide reveal.
My unbound enthusiasm for the natural world and interminable commentary when visiting family in Australia, resulted in my children calling me “Daffodil Dundee”!
Q: Lastly, share with us your fondest memories of Maxwell Chambers.
A: I am afraid it is not its fancy facilities and state of the art tech and hearing rooms (I first sat as an arbitrator in a portacabin!) but its wonderful staff, from top to bottom, who cannot do enough to smooth the progress of an arbitration hearing, in whatever role or responsibility they discharge.