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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Elizabeth Birch is “a senior figure” who is “very active” in the mediation space. She enjoys an “excellent reputation” among clients seeking commercial dispute resolution in a range of sectors.

Questions & Answers

Elizabeth has been in full-time practice as international arbitrator and mediator since 2003 handling a wide variety of international cases (practised at the English Commercial Bar 1980 to 2003), specialising in maritime law, international trade and transportation, insurance and reinsurance, oil and gas, energy, international finance and banking, joint ventures, distributorship and franchise, information technology, telecommunications and all types of international commercial disputes. Her cases frequently involve complex issues and high-value disputes. She receives regular appointments from the main international institutions, and ad hoc.

What did you find most challenging about entering the world of mediation?

I was first involved in mediation as a party representative in the early 1990s, when the process was in its infancy in the UK, in relation to a joint venture dispute between Russian interests and French interests. I quickly became a convert. The difficult part was persuading my colleagues and clients that it was a valuable process for many high-value international commercial disputes, at a time when many lawyers and business people considered that mediation was only useful in family disputes or small civil disputes. I carried a torch for mediation for quite a number of years until it became mainstream in large commercial and international cases.

What is your philosophy for being a great mediator?

I believe that a mixture of flexibility, empathy and understanding are three of the most important attributes of a mediator. Flexibility, because I believe that the process should respond to the type of dispute and the nature of the parties. I don’t believe in a “one size fits all” approach. Every mediation is different and every arrangement for mediation should respond to the needs of the parties. In particular, in international mediation, parties may come from far and wide with different understandings of a mediation process, different cultural backgrounds and different needs and interests. Party representatives may travel from a considerable distance to attend a meeting and the process may not sit easily with them if it is trammelled into a one or two-day meeting. The often very different cultural backgrounds of parties may lead particularly to a natural mistrust or a misconstruing of conduct and language. The mediator’s role is very important in helping the parties to understand each other and in rebuilding the trust that is essential for successful commercial business. The best of mediation is when it rebuilds trust and allows the parties to continue in business for the future.

What is the most interesting mediation you have been a part of?

There have been many, but I could not possibly divulge confidential details. Mediations are always interesting because of the subject matter, because of the personalities involved and because of the challenges of helping the parties to a settlement. It is a fascinating process and all the better, from a mediator’s point of view, for being so successful.

To what extent has the Singapore Convention on Mediation begun to have a visible impact on the market?

I have watched Singapore become an increasingly significant player in both mediation and arbitration over the last decade and more. It has been building legislation in the international sphere in very positive ways for a number of years and this has not gone unnoticed amongst international parties, and particularly those operating in or close to the Far East. I am pleased to be on the SIAC, SIMC and SCMA panels and to have the opportunity to work on mediations and arbitrations based in Singapore, both in person at the very sophisticated facilities available in that jurisdiction and, now, virtually.

To what extent do you play a different role to that of mediator when you sit as arbitrator?

The role of an arbitrator is completely different to that of a mediator. I have sat as an arbitrator since 1992, I started mediating in 1995 and I have been a full-time arbitrator and mediator since 2003. When I get up in the morning, I put on the correct hat!

As an arbitrator it is my job to keep good control of the proceedings, keep a position of fairness and balance between the parties, and to exercise justice. The arbitrator must make decisions and I enjoy the intellectual challenge in international commercial disputes of coming to what I believe to be the right decision. In international arbitration that often comes with the additional interesting dichotomy between (and ultimately, sometimes, merging of) the civil and common law processes, and with determinations in the field of conflict of laws. Both mediators and arbitrators must be neutral and impartial, and that is central to both processes, but in arbitration I stand back and make a determination on the basis of the submissions before me. In mediation the mediator inevitably becomes closely involved with the thinking of the party representatives, their needs and their interests. In arbitration the parties receive a legal determination. In mediation the parties have the opportunity to fashion their own settlement that can be, in many cases, to both parties’ commercial advantage. Mediation is usually a much more commercial process.

I am often asked which role I prefer, and the answer is that I enjoy both roles quite differently and always hope to keep a balance of both mediation and arbitration within my practice. Of course, mediation is always a best first option for parties since it is a relatively inexpensive and quick process in which the outcome may be more advantageous to both parties, and more commercial. But, where mediation is unsuccessful, arbitration is an excellent process for dispute resolution providing greater informality, greater confidentiality and usually better international enforceability than proceeding through the local courts.

Global Leader

Mediation 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Elizabeth Birch is “a senior figure” who is “very active” in the mediation space. She enjoys an “excellent reputation” among clients seeking commercial dispute resolution in a range of sectors.

Biography

Elizabeth Birch (FCIArb, 1993) is a chartered arbitrator (1998) and a qualified mediator (QDR, 1995) with a diploma in international commercial arbitration (distinction) from the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (1998). She is a senior mediator (advanced mediator training, MATA, 2005) and a distinguished fellow of the International Academy of Mediators (IAM), California. She is certified by IMI and SIMI for cross-border disputes and a member of the prestigious Lamport Hall Group.

Elizabeth has practised full-time as an international arbitrator and mediator since 2003, handling a wide variety of international cases (practised at the English Commercial Bar, 1980–2003), specialising in maritime law, international trade and transportation, insurance and reinsurance, oil and gas, energy, international finance and banking, joint ventures, distributorship and franchise, information technology and telecommunications, and all types of commercial and international disputes. Cases frequently involve complex issues, disputes with an international flavour and high-value disputes. Many involve technical issues.

Elizabeth has extensive experience in arbitration, having sat as arbitrator since 1992, in both institutional and ad hoc arbitration. She receives regular appointments from the main international institutions, and has been appointed both as sole arbitrator and on panels of three, frequently as presiding arbitrator or chairperson.

Elizabeth has sat as a mediator since 1996. She has successfully conducted a substantial number of mediations in commercial and cross-border disputes including high value, technical and multi-party. She is a panel member of Singapore International Mediation Centre (SMC/SIMC ) and CPR (New York) for distinguished international mediators. She is recommended in Chambers (1998–) and The Legal 500 (2015–).

National Leader

UK Bar - Mediation - Juniors 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Elizabeth Birch is an excellent mediator with an outstanding international reputation and significant expertise in contentious maritime proceedings.

Biography

Elizabeth Birch (FCIArb, 1993) is a chartered arbitrator (1998) and a qualified mediator (QDR, 1995) with a diploma in international commercial arbitration (distinction) from the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (1998). She is a senior mediator (advanced mediator training, MATA, 2005) and a distinguished fellow of the International Academy of Mediators (IAM), California. She is certified by IMI and SIMI for cross-border disputes and a member of the prestigious Lamport Hall Group.

Elizabeth has practised full-time as an international arbitrator and mediator since 2003, handling a wide variety of international cases (practised at the English Commercial Bar, 1980–2003), specialising in maritime law, international trade and transportation, insurance and reinsurance, oil and gas, energy, international finance and banking, joint ventures, distributorship and franchise, information technology and telecommunications, and all types of commercial and international disputes. Cases frequently involve complex issues, disputes with an international flavour and high-value disputes. Many involve technical issues.

Elizabeth has extensive experience in arbitration, having sat as arbitrator since 1992, in both institutional and ad hoc arbitration. She receives regular appointments from the main international institutions, and has been appointed both as sole arbitrator and on panels of three, frequently as presiding arbitrator or chairperson.

Elizabeth has sat as a mediator since 1996. She has successfully conducted a substantial number of mediations in commercial and cross-border disputes including high value, technical and multi-party. She is a panel member of Singapore International Mediation Centre (SMC/SIMC ) and CPR (New York) for distinguished international mediators. She is recommended in Chambers (1998–) and The Legal 500 (2015–).

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