Dispute resolution often gets a bad press, especially in the rural sector where arbitration is seen as risky, expensive and slow. While some of these criticisms may be valid, a lot of work has been done over the past two to three years to change these perceptions.
There are only about 25 rural arbitrators on the RICS President's panel. Twenty years ago there were 150 and even 10 years ago there were about 80.
The RICS Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) has worked hard over the past decade to raise the standards and training of rural arbitrators and, in conjunction with Rural Arbrix – essentially a branch of the national club for arbitrators – a lot has changed. DRS has also set up a working group with the principal aim of raising and maintaining standards. Although some areas of these two groups' areas of work do not overlap, their combined intention is to simplify – where appropriate – the arbitration process, reduce its costs and risks, and make it more accessible and user-friendly.
As well as updating RICS professional statements on matters such as acting as advocates or expert witnesses and conflicts of interest in dispute resolution, the DRS working group has written practical guidance on the nature and process of rural arbitration. Although there is a regulatory element to these documents, one of their main aims is to be informative and helpful about best practice and give details about the processes involved in arbitration. It is also felt that if rural arbitration is to be seen more clearly as an appropriate way to deal with disputes it must be easily accessible to the average surveyor and not just the domain of lawyers and barristers. If younger surveyors can be encouraged to participate, that in turn is likely to lead to rural arbitration becoming more cost-effective and efficient.
Rural Arbrix also tries to play a significant role in demystifying rural arbitration by introducing those interested not only to the process itself – through CPD events held twice a year at their spring conference and Rural Arbrix annual general meeting – but also by enabling them to meet arbitrators themselves.
While only arbitrators on the RICS President's panel can become members of Rural Arbrix, members can invite guests who are interested in attending the annual general meeting and conference. Guests usually need to be rural chartered surveyors with at least 10 years' post-qualification experience and an interest or background in rural disputes. Anyone who would like to attend should ask an arbitrator they know for an invitation, or they can contact me.
Philip Meade FRICS is chair of the RICS Dispute Resolution Standards Working Group email@example.com
Related competencies include: Conflict avoidance, management and dispute resolution procedures