Justice Talk with Sophie Nappert: Global Community of Digital Arbitration

The arbitration community is a small yet strong one. It’s composed of people who believe that justice should not only be efficient and effective but also accessible to everyone. In whatever field of arbitration, arbitrators are keen to network with like-minded individuals who champion access to justice.

With a globalized market, it’s understandable that the arbitration community has also gone global. There are online talks, conferences, and groups that all want to take part in promoting and fostering the growth of the arbitration industry. One such group is ArbTech, a worldwide community of arbitrators who believe in the power of tech to provide access to justice.

We spoke with ArbTech founder and international commercial arbitrator, Sophie Nappert, on her thoughts about the growth of the global arbitration community, as well as the implications and lessons that digital arbitration imparts to all who are part of this growing circle.

Sophie Nappert: Taking International Arbitration to the Next Level

Sophie is no stranger to the field of international arbitration. Having been dual-qualified as an Avocat of the Bar of Quebec, Canada, and as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales, her track record as a legal professional precedes her. Prior to becoming an arbitrator, she also was Head of International Arbitration at a global law firm.

Aside from being a decorated law practitioner, Sophie has also broken glass ceilings after being the first female recipient of the Global Arbitration Review Award for Best Speech in 2016. True to her nature of always pushing forward, she has also completed a Programme on Blockchain Strategy from the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.

Sophie is a known pioneer in the space where technology and law meet, and the group she has founded, ArbTech, is just a testament to her desire to build a community where digital arbitration may flourish. She is continuously making great strides in the industry, which is why we first asked her about how other arbitrators could also make their mark in the field of arbitration.

Making a Mark in the Global Arbitration Community

“To grow in the field of arbitration, you must first have a certain professional maturity as a lawyer,” says Sophie when we asked about how one could start making a mark in the industry. “You can’t sell your services and your abilities if you don’t know what they are, so you have to know yourself well.”

“You have to be quite frank with yourself early on, and understand where your strengths lie. Then, try to acquire more skills where you have a weakness once you’ve identified and cultivated your strength,” she says, noting how many lawyers may not be comfortable with numbers yet it’s still important to develop mathematical skills. 

Knowing your market and seizing each opportunity in the said market is also a piece of advice she shared. “Know your market — I would say that was the first thing that I did when I decided to become an arbitrator. Early on, I knew what users of arbitration were looking for and I tried to find a place in the industry.”

She also says how barriers in the market should not deter an aspiring arbitrator, instead, it should fuel them into changing the status quo. “Little to no women were full-time arbitrators when I started. I was also not as senior as my other colleagues. So, to stand out, I made sure I read the documents and was prepared. My goal was to complement other, perhaps, more senior colleagues who had less time to do certain tasks.”

“So that’s what I mean, if you want to get into the field of arbitration, acquire the skills and know the market so that you know exactly where to pitch yourself. And with the online taking ground, I would highly suggest getting comfortable with the digital world.”

Leveraging on the growing global community of arbitrators, Sophie said how expanding your network will also help. “It’s the same with any type of business — you have to network,” she says.

She says institutions nowadays are a lot savvier and wiser because they have understood that there’s a pool of talent amongst the new arbitrators who are at the forefront of digital adoption. These institutions give up-and-coming arbitrations to smaller cases or put them on a panel with more established arbitrators to train them up.

In terms of technology’s use, Sophie says how using digital tools to your advantage will also help in making your mark in the worldwide arbitration community. “If an institution knows your name, then you have a very good chance of landing your first appointment that way,” she illustrates.

“Another way to do it is to become very well-versed in one topic, publish blog articles on said topic, and people will start associating your name with that topic,” Sophie says.

Ultimately, to make a mark in the community, you have to add value to those in the group. You must really understand what you bring to the table and maximize that to your advantage.

Lessons Learned From the Global Community

In a vast community of people with shared experiences and values, it’s common that certain life lessons will ring true, and Sophie shared some of these lessons with us.

“One great life lesson that I learned from being an arbitrator is how to be intellectually humble,” she says. “Not to think that because you are sitting on that side of the table, that you have all the answers.”

With this lesson ingrained in her, Sophie says that she’s become more careful in her decisions as she understands the implications. She then quips how she double and even triple-checks everything.

The humility she’s learned from her experience also taught her to be respectful of others’ opposing opinions. “If you’re lucky enough to be on a panel with colleagues, then you obviously have to extend respect for their input, even if you might disagree.”

In a global community, Sophie says how respect, cultural sensitivity, and an ability to disagree without making the argument into a fight are some of the key things to learn and practice.

In terms of being an arbitrator, Sophie explains how decisiveness is very important, and that splitting the baby should be avoided. “It’s very important that a decision be motivated,” she says.

“An arbitrator is hired to decide whether someone’s right or wrong. You can’t please everyone, and I think if you try to please everyone, you might have a short-term gain — but in the long run, your reputation will suffer,” Sophie warns.

And in a growing community with a worldwide reach, technology is very much important. “I think that there’s a great potential for partnership between humanity and technology to optimize processes and what human nature can do,” she explains.

“There has to be a line that needs to be drawn as to how far we let technology take over the process,” she says, noting how technology can help humans process large amounts of data and information.

And in the age of digital communication, Sophie founded a community of arbitrators and legal professionals who are connected by their desire to champion the future of justice.

ArbTech: A Global Community of Digital Arbitration Champions

According to their profile, ArbTech is a worldwide community fostering cross-disciplinary dialogue on tech, dispute resolution, and the future of justice.

With Sophie at the helm of the group, ArbTech is dedicated to providing a conducive environment for all arbitrators to share, discuss, and promote their advocacies to like-minded individuals. Jur is proud to be part of the group and we look forward to collaborating with them in more legal tech innovations.

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