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You need to be more than a litigator

You need to be more than a litigator

A commercial dispute resolution conference on Thursday (7 June) will look at how the legal profession is shifting its focus from the courtroom to the mediation table in commercial dispute resolution.

Six high-profile members of the legal profession will speak at Thursday’s conference on the topic of Commercial Dispute Resolution – The 2020 Vision at the Sydney offices of Gilbert + Tobin.

Panel members include NSW chief justice Tom Bathurst; Tom Howe QC, chief counsel dispute resolution, Australian Government Solicitor; Michelle Sindler, the CEO of the Australian International Dispute Centre; Craig Pudig, the head of litigation at the Macquarie Group; Colleen Platford, a litigation partner at Gilbert + Tobin and Frank Handy, a principal with the mediation experts The Trillium Group.

Lawyers Weekly, The Trillium Group and Gilbert + Tobin are joint sponsors of the event.

“If you were to articulate a primary strategy for Mac (the Macquarie Group) it is to look to resolve disputes where we see they should be resolved,” said Pudig. “There are some where you can’t resolve them despite the best intentions of everyone involved, but it is something that we try to do.”

Pudig, a former partner at Minter Ellison and Sydney managing partner of Clayton Utz, is currently overseeing proceedings brought against Macquarie following the collapse of Storm Financial in 2009.

He said that, for lawyers based in the litigation and dispute resolution practice groups of law firms, you need to have skills in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to further your career and to retain key clients.

“Having those suite of ADR skills is important, not just at particular stages but at all stages when running a piece of litigation,” said Pudig. “You always have to be thinking about if you can shift a piece of litigation to a position where you can attempt to resolve it.”

Australia’s commercial dispute resolution system has been overhauled over the past five years. Significant reforms have included the adoption of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) model to govern Australia’s domestic commercial arbitration system.

Despite the push to keep commercial disputes out of the court room, there is a growing consensus among dispute resolution practitioners that lawyers need more support from authorities to facilitate the settlement of disputes.

A recent poll on the Lawyers Weekly website found that nearly 90 per cent of respondents felt that the court system could improve the resolution of commercial claims through additional mediation and ADR processes, and disciplined case streamlining and case management by courts.

Let’s settle in Australia
Since the creation of the Australian International Disputes Centre (AIDC) in 2010, Australia has played a more active role in regional dialogue around facilitating the best methods to resolve cross-border commercial disputes.
A high-powered Australian delegation that includes Marilyn Warren, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, is currently in China spruiking Australia’s wares to attract a greater share of the booming international arbitration market.

Presently around 15 per cent of the parties in cases heard at the AIDC are international, with that figure expected to increase as the AIDC gains more international exposure.

“A lot of progress has been made in terms of the development of the centre, the development of domestic and international arbitration and the recognition of arbitration as a viable dispute resolution mechanism when compared to the courts,” said Michelle Sindler, the CEO of the AIDC.

In addition to discussing how Australia can best promote itself on the international arbitration stage, the panel will also look at how the reputation of litigation could be improved as a dispute resolution process, whether lawyers have a vested interest in prolonging litigation and how courts could better use mediation to resolve commercial claims.

A small number of tickets are still available for the event, which has a strictly limited capacity. Please go to to register.

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