Report on Use of HKIAC Tribunal Secretary Service

03 Sep 2018

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03 Sep 2018

Report on Use of HKIAC Tribunal Secretary Service

The Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (“HKIAC”) is pleased to release a report on the use of its Tribunal Secretary Service – an initiative that was introduced in June 2014 and allows all HKIAC legal counsel to be appointed as tribunal secretary in HKIAC-administered and ad hoc arbitrations seated in or outside of Hong Kong.

Since the launch of the service, HKIAC legal counsel have been appointed as tribunal secretary on 20 occasions in a total of 19 arbitrations. The number of appointments received each year since 2014 is broken down below, which shows a strong growth in 2018 with more appointments made in the first half of this year than in any previous 12-month period.  

All appointments were made under the HKIAC Guidelines on Use of Secretary to Arbitral Tribunal, which provide detailed guidance on the appointment, removal, duties and remuneration of a tribunal secretary and serve as the recommended terms of appointment for HKIAC’s Tribunal Secretary Service.

All 19 arbitrations in which an appointment was made were administered by HKIAC under its Administered Arbitration Rules (“HKIAC Rules”) or the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules. Three of those arbitrations were emergency arbitrations in which an HKIAC-appointed tribunal secretary assisted the emergency arbitrator in issuing his or her decision within the 15-day time limit under the HKIAC Rules. 

All 19 arbitrations were seated in Hong Kong and concerned a wide range of disputes under various types of agreements including share purchase agreements, shareholders and consortium agreements, commodity supply agreements, hotel management agreements, patent licensing agreements. The governing laws included Hong Kong, English, New York and Chinese law.

16 of the arbitrations were conducted in English. Two were conducted in both Chinese and English and one was in Chinese only.

The total amount in dispute across the 15 arbitrations with quantifiable claims was HK$19.1 billion (US$2.4 billion). The average amount in dispute was HK$1.3 billion (US$162.6 million).

Of the 19 arbitrations, 11 have concluded. In respect of the concluded arbitrations, the aggregated tribunal secretary’s costs accounted for 6% of the aggregated tribunal’s costs.

Tasks undertaken by the tribunal secretaries typically included making procedural arrangements; reviewing parties’ correspondence and submissions; attending hearings, deliberations and taking notes; assisting with the non-substantive drafting of correspondence, procedural orders, decisions and awards; proof-reading awards; and translation work. The appointment of a tribunal secretary to undertake these tasks can save costs for parties. For example, in an emergency arbitration, the HKIAC-appointed tribunal secretary undertook 34.7 hours of administrative and drafting work at the rate of HK$1,700/hour (US$217/hour) which would have been undertaken by the emergency arbitrator at the rate of HK$5,500 (US$700/hour), thereby saving the parties HK$131,860 (US$16,800).

The Tribunal Secretary Service has proven to be a useful feature of HKIAC’s offering in its international commercial and investment treaty cases and has met with growing demand. As the first and only international commercial arbitral institution to provide such service, HKIAC received the GAR Award for Innovation by an Individual or Organisation in 2014. The quality of the service has been widely endorsed by international arbitrators.

Lucy Reed, Professor and Director of the Centre for International Law at the National University of Singapore, has used the Tribunal Secretary Service in two related cases and says “I could not have been more pleased with the professional assistance from the HKIAC Secretary.  He helped our Tribunal from start to finish, from purely admin support to basic drafting – always on the right side of the line for a tribunal secretary, and with the added benefit of knowing the HKIAC rules and practices inside-out.  I would happily use this HKIAC service again.”

Sally Harpole, a California-based international arbitrator, says “the tribunal secretary services offered by the HKIAC are an outstanding development in efforts to make arbitration procedures more cost and time efficient. HKIAC Secretariat staff who serve in the capacity of tribunal secretary are well-versed in HKIAC and UNCITRAL procedures, with skills and training to handle administrative and organizational procedures promptly and appropriately. As an arbitrator, I am delighted to have convenient access to such excellent support at reasonable rates on an as needed basis. The cost saving that results is an important reason why I have used this service a number of times.”

Peter Leaver QC of One Essex Court says “the HKIAC provides an excellent Tribunal Secretary Service to tribunals. I have both used and seen Tribunal Secretaries work in many cases in many different seats, but the service that I have had from the Tribunal Secretary provided by the HKIAC has been outstanding.”

In addition to the Tribunal Secretary Service, HKIAC also runs a Tribunal Secretary Training Programme which occurs over two and a half days at the end of which participants are assessed. The programme is taught by a faculty, comprised of individuals with extensive experience acting as tribunal secretary. If participants pass the assessment, they are listed on HKIAC’s website and can be considered by arbitral tribunals for appointment in arbitrations under any rules and seated in any jurisdictions. HKIAC hosts two tribunal secretary sessions every year in Hong Kong and in other jurisdictions such as London, New York, Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing and Manila. Further information about the programme can be found at

Media Contact
Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre
Karen Tan
Tel: (852) 2525 2381
Fax: (852) 2524 2171

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