In May this year, I was reserved to act as expert in a number of arbitrations. Firstly for a 5-day preparation and 5-day arbitration in Johannesburg. Following this, I was reserved for a 5-day preparation and 5-days hearing in Doha. Following this, I was reserved for a 5-day arbitration in Cape Town. In between this, I had to sit remotely for 1 day as an arbitrator.

Each of these four matters had been affected by the pandemic. They were now in need of conclusion.

As experts, our diaries are often an afterthought. But in this instance I was keen to conclude my role so that I could enjoy a much need break in July.

Generally, I am not concerned with travel. I use planes almost like local buses, arriving overnight for meetings and leaving the night after a meeting.

As a precursor to this, I had trained for a two-day trail run in the Drakensburg, secured tickets for The Killers in Manchester, and booked my summer holidays in Greece.

Arbitration Number One

The preparation for the first arbitration began to stall as settlement discussions took place. However, the preparation continued. It was expected that settlement would be secured before my weekend trail run. Sadly for my weekend plans, the parties lawyers disputed the terms of the settlement agreement.

I received a call from my lawyers late on the Friday to advise that we must continue preparation over the weekend. As this meant I was now reserved for Saturday and Sunday, the annual trail run would have to wait another 12 months.

I attended preparation with Senior Counsel on Saturday morning. We worked until 2 pm when the lawyers agreed the terms of settlement. One down.

Off to Doha

I flew to Doha a week later. After addressing the bizarre confusion of there being two Marriot hotels very close to each other, I settled myself in readiness for a week of preparation.

The preparation went well although I was so busy that I only left the hotel or office environment once.

I worked until Thursday before sitting remotely as arbitrator on the Friday. My only day off before finalising preparation on Saturday, two down.

The arbitration started on Sunday. I was engaged in cross-examination for 3 of these days with the balance of my time spent listening to the witnesses.

Unfortunately, due to a member of the tribunal being taken ill and some technological issues, the hearing did not complete. It was requested that we return for one day in the following week.

The Killers Cancelled

You may recall, I had been reserved for a matter in Cape Town on the suggested date so I had to decline. The only next available date being some 3 weeks later – during my summer holiday!

I planned to leave Doha and watch The Killers in Manchester before flying to Cape Town. That was until my attorney phoned me to tell me that the arbitrator had erred in his diary. It turned out he only had one day available for the hearing but still wanted the time put to use. This coupled with a direction for the experts to narrow the issue by meeting on site changed my plans. I had to fly from Doha to Cape Town, arriving in time to commence expert meetings on the Friday afternoon and into the Saturday. No Killers. More frustratingly the date suggested by the tribunal in Doha could have actually been met.

The Monday hearing was held but we still have to return for a further 4 days. For now three down.

Hearings From Hotel Rooms

I headed home later that week to disclose the additional day that was to be used whilst on our holiday. Thankfully this news was received with understanding.

After a few days of rest, I returned to screen. Sitting in my hotel room in Greece in a shirt and tie for the final day of the hearing in Doha. Four down and our holiday commenced.

I have more hearings planned this year and they currently provide no challenges. I am however experienced enough to know that gathering arbitrators, experts, witnesses, counsel and attorneys in the same place at the same time for a long period is not an easy task. A little compromise from everybody does help even if it changes your plans.