Ask An Expert: Sophie Nappert

Sophie Nappert, an Arbitrator in independent practice at 3 Verulam Buildings in London, discusses the importance of the drafting process and the increased use of technology in international arbitration.

What is your current role in dispute resolution?

My current role is that of provider of arbitration services as arbitrator. What made me specialise in dispute resolution was, as it often is, a combination of both preference and circumstances. I focus on international arbitration in the energy, infrastructure and foreign investment fields.

Which processes do you use most frequently?

If one works primarily as an arbitrator, using a combination of methods can send the wrong message to the parties who have chosen you as an adjudicator – especially if those parties are not very familiar with the arbitral process. You could be seen as shying away from making hard or authoritative decisions.

The position may be different with more sophisticated users of the arbitral process, but generally my experience has been that when parties take the trouble and expense to go to arbitration they do not expect me to default to another mode of dispute resolution en route unless they specifically request it, which is rare.

Do you think the full range of dispute resolution processes is available to users?

It is worth recalling that the different means of dispute resolution require different skill sets. What makes a good arbitrator does not necessarily make a good negotiator or mediator, and vice versa. The same person wearing several hats may entail a waste of cost and time for the parties.

How do you think the dispute resolution processes are likely to change in the future?

The appropriate time to address what might be the ultimate dispute resolution mechanism is not *after* the dispute arises, and arguably the best person to address this question is not the dispute resolver. These matters should be addressed ex ante – meaning at the contract drafting stage. The parties know better than any dispute resolution provider what kind of dispute is likely to arise between them, and if it does arise, what mechanism they prefer for addressing it. Drafting more accurate, better thought-out disput