The CPR European Advisory Board (EAB) continues it series “meet CPR’s Distinguished Neutrals in Europe” and today it presents its third Q&A with Mauro Rubino Sammartano.
Mauro Rubino Sammartano (pictured) is a partner in the Italian law firm Law Fed based in Milano. Mauro sits as an arbitrator in commercial and investment arbitrations. His wide experience includes advocacy in Italy and in Paris, being an associate tenant of a London set of Chambers for many years, and a Recorder and Deputy Judge in Italy. He has been involved in arbitration for about 30 years more recently, in mediation. Mauro is also chair of the European Court of Arbitration and the Mediation Centre of Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. He lectures on arbitration and mediation and is the author of several textbooks and articles on topics of international arbitration.
Mauro kindly agreed to grant us an interview for the third blog piece of our series profiling CPR Neutrals in Europe. Here are his insights:
How did you get your start as a neutral?
I have come to arbitration by acting as counsel in large international construction projects. I enjoyed arbitration and started studying it. I had been involved in construction matters for some time when I received my first appointment as arbitrator in a construction dispute. I really liked it; I saw similarities with my prior activities as Recorder and then as a Deputy Judge in Italy.
Dealing with ADR, I realized that the top priority for litigants is to avoid or at least to narrow the scope of a litigation. I therefore started to deepen my knowledge of mediation, I have now become a trainer in mediation and the chair the Mediation Centre for Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Who is your dispute resolution hero/heroine?
Hans Smit, Columbia University, for having handled an arbitration proceeding extraordinarily fast, which remains a rare example in commercial arbitration.
What is the one advice you want to give to the younger generation looking for a first appointment as neutral?
Study international arbitration and write about it. It will transpire from your conduct whether you practice in this field because you like it, or it is just a business opportunity for you.
Were you ever the first in doing something?
Probably I was the first (i) to introduce in 1997 in the rules of the European Court of Arbitration, sections providing for an appellate arbitral tribunal in commercial arbitration and (ii) to stress the duty of an arbitrator to act “with humanity and humility.”
What makes your conflict resolution style unique?
I have noticed, through my various contacts on the international level, that a frequent complaint against arbitrators is that they remain distant from the parties, do not always know the file well and seem willing to spend the least possible time on the dispute. To me, the duties of an arbitrator are exactly the opposite: the arbitrator must be available to the parties, study the file well and devote to it all the necessary time. This approach amounts to acting in a spirit of service. My approach to arbitration is this one.
What was the most difficult challenge you faced as a neutral?
In my early days, to my great surprise, I had to refuse a top appointment because the appointor was clearly expecting that the party-appointed arbitrator would act for it.
Another difficult challenge to me is that there is not always enough discussion within the panel, each arbitrator tending to go his/her way. Discussions and even better, a very frank discussion, seem to me essential for the arbitrators to reach the best possible solution.
What is the most important mistake you see counsel make?
The most important mistake which in my opinion too many counsels make, is to keep repeating themselves in all their pleadings and/or discussions. This is likely to produce the risk that the arbitrator does not read at length all the passages in which he/she finds a clear repetition and sometimes in the middle of such repetition there could be anew sentence or word which might have helped that party’s case.
Another mistake is to insist on a hopeless argument. In general, counsel should not ignore what transpires from the conduct of the arbitrators and the opposing party and adjust – if needed – his/her line of defense.
If you could change one thing about commercial arbitration, what would it be?
A frequent negative view of commercial arbitrators is that they concentrate on showing how good they are and on writing a brilliant piece of legal literature.
Another very negative aspect for the image of arbitration consists of frequent appointments made just because of the “esprit de copinage”. This leads some arbitrators not to share their position fully with the other members of the panel by fear of making them unhappy and jeopardizing the possibility that they could appoint him/her on other occasions in the future.
In your view, what makes CPR unique?
What to me makes CPR unique is the message that it conveys: it shows that CPR has neither a self-serving nor a commercial purpose and its Rules illustrate its goal of understanding the needs of the parties and to find way to address and accommodate them.