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The sociologist Richard Sennett has talked about the development of a craft through rhythm, adjacency and resistance. A craftsman learns through repetition and long years of practice (rhythm). Then they acquire new skills from those nearby – from those physically close and from those practising a related trade (adjacency). Thirdly, they develop their craft through encountering new problems that they have to devise solutions to (resistance).
We have seen the craft of the arbitrator change over the years. I suggest there have been three broad phases, corresponding very roughly to the period before the year 2000, the years from 2000 to the present day, and from now into the future (please note this is merely an impressionistic sketch rather than a proper history). I call the arbitrators in these three phases the pioneers, the professionals and the problem-solvers.
In the beginning, arbitrators had to learn their craft, and build arbitration as they learned. The arbitrators helped to create the conceptual framework for arbitration and they acquired the skills they needed to operate within that framework. These were the days in which arbitration stepped out from the shadow of national court litigation to become an independent system of justice. At first arbitration relied heavily on the support of courts but over time that reliance diminished.
Individuals in this phase tended not to be focussed solely on sitting as arbitrator: they held positions at firms or universities and took appointm
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