Young EFILA in conversation with… Amanda Lee

Amanda J. Lee, FCIArb is an Arbitrator and Consultant at Costigan King, London. She is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Law, UK, and a Member of the INIAC Advisory Board, and ArbitralWomen’s Advisory Council, amongst other roles. Amanda is the Founder of Careers in Arbitration and ARBalance.

We sat down with her to hear about her experience, ideas and tips for future generations.

Young EFILA: What attracted you to a career in arbitration?

Amanda Lee: My career in arbitration began because of delegation, not attraction, but after my first arbitration, an ad hoc domestic arbitration relating to paper recycling, I was hooked! 

The ability to tailor the dispute resolution process to the matter at hand appealed to my inner project manager, and it was gratifying to witness the talent and passion of those working in the field in different capacities. 

YE: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

AL: When sitting as arbitrator, I enjoy working with the parties and their counsel to ensure that the arbitral process delivers on its promise, and does so efficiently, expeditiously, and as cost-effectively as possible. Running a tight ship is important. 

More generally, I enjoy this field’s community spirit, and the opportunity to learn from, and work with, friends and colleagues from across the globe on numerous initiatives with the goal of making the field better for the next generation of parties and practitioners alike.

YE: What is the most memorable moment in your career?

AL: Far too many to count: being led by my friend David Phillips QC in a Privy Council appeal during the pandemic; becoming the first woman to chair the CIArb YMG’s Global Steering Committee; founding Careers in Arbitration in 2019; my first appointment as arbitrator (of course); delivering my first keynote address on International Women’s Day 2021 – I may be the youngest person to have been shortlisted for a GAR Award for Best Lecture/Speech. 

I have been very lucky!

YE: How can young professionals increase their ‘luck surface area’ or exposure to opportunities?

AL: First, learn how to use social media and connect with others in our community based on substance. Such genuine connections often lead to opportunities to co-author, get involved with young practitioner groups, speak, and more. 

Second, be proactive about identifying opportunities. For example, if I found a missing perspective in an event program, I would offer to provide it.

Finally, have faith in your own ideas. If no one will give you a platform to share them, create your own.

YE: In your opinion, how can an established professional give back to the arbitration community?

AL: We should all strive to become an integral part of the community and give back at least as much as we take from it. Professionals of all levels can mentor, support, and in due course sponsor the next generation, particularly those from historically disadvantaged groups and backgrounds. 

Change starts from the top and creating a culture in which junior colleagues feel supported, respected, and heard is key. In my case, in addition to working with ArbitralWomen, the CIArb, and R.E.A.L, and founding Careers in Arbitration, I recently developed a new initiative. This is ARBalance, an initiative which focuses on wellbeing and how to have a happy, healthy career in arbitration, mindful that the pandemic has thrown the importance of wellbeing into stark relief. 

YE: Could you please share with us an unpopular opinion that you hold about working in arbitration? 

AL: The seemingly relentless self-promotion of some practitioners in the field can be enormously toxic. Whilst it is deserving to celebrate our successes, leadership appointments, recognitions, and so on, I encourage members of our community to spend as much time or more supporting, contributing to, and celebrating the successes of others in the field — particularly those who hail from underrepresented groups or are more junior — as they do on showcasing their own profiles.

YE: What would you do if you weren’t working as an arbitration practitioner?

AL: I like to think that I would spend my time writing, teaching, travelling, and refereeing snooker games, with an emphasis on the latter. I suspect, however, that I would probably be a political strategist, or something similarly tactical.

YE: Thank you, Amanda!

*** This interview was conducted by Ioana Maria Bratu and forms part of Young EFILA’s Interview Series with Arbitration Practitioners ****