Internship an indisputable success

Coming to the end of her summer internship with Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, Victoria University law student Lydia Joyce says the experience has provided her fascinating insights into the world of international dispute resolution.
Lydia sitting at a desk in front of a computer

Lydia: "This internship has provided a fascinating top-down view of the arbitration process."

I had been eyeing up this internship for a couple of years because I already had an interest in alternative dispute resolution (or ADR if you’re fancy) going back to my college days.

In college I had participated in a peer mediation programme, which taught students to manage classroom disputes. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but in my first year of law school I learned that the techniques we had been taught were exactly the methods used by real mediators and that dispute resolution was a potential career path for an aspiring lawyer.  

For those unfamiliar with ADR, they are methods for resolving disputes without going to court. This is where the “Alternative” in ADR comes from.

The litigation process can be extremely costly and time consuming, so it’s common for two contractual parties to create a clause in their agreements to refer to either arbitration, mediation or both in the event of a disagreement before going to court.

Arbitration and mediation often go hand in hand, with mediation being the plan A to resolve disputes as a more flexible approach where both parties can try to come to an agreeable conclusion. The two parties will employ the services of a mediator who will look to find mutually beneficial solution. If the parties can’t come to a decision by themselves, the parties will present to an arbitrator (or arbitrators) who will make a binding and final decision to resolve the matter.  

This internship has provided a fascinating top-down view of the arbitration process.

The Hong Kong International Arbitration Institute (HKIAC) is a managing body that administrates disputes and liaises between the parties and the arbitrators.

Even with an existing knowledge of arbitration, the learning curve was steep. From the first day, I was given an exciting amount of responsibility.

The majority of my work has involved reading through emails and documents submitted between parties, to create briefs for the HKIAC’s internal counsel to refer to when making various administrative decisions. The counsel are quite busy and typically don’t have time to read all of the documents for a dispute, so my summaries could sometimes be essential for final decision-making.  

Along with the other interns, I also help to put together the weekly digest of arbitration news.

This has been a massive learning opportunity as we’re given access to dispute resolution networks with which to find the most relevant happenings in the world of arbitration.

I’ve learned a lot about how international treaties can impact trade and just how prominent arbitration is in particular in international business. Did you know Jay-Z and Bacardi are currently using arbitration to manage a dispute? 

Two woman on screen during an online meeting

While they only connected online, Lydia (right) says her colleagues in Hong Kong made her feel welcome and appreciated

Although I’ve not had the chance to actually travel to Hong Kong, the HKIAC team has made me feel really welcome at the weekly team meetings and intern training sessions. The team is incredibly diverse; I’ve personally met people from Turkey, China, the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia and Sweden, to name a few. 

I’ve had plenty to do over the summer period because for the HKIAC it’s a busy time of year.

While most law firms tend to slow down towards the end of the year, lots of arbitrations get filed in the lead up to Christmas to have disputes processed and ready to arbitrate after the holiday season.

Doing this internship online has also meant that I’ve managed to do quite a bit of work on the road while spending Christmas with my family. I could certainly think of worse things than doing internship work on the beach. 

I’ve still got another month to go with the potential to extend it through summer, so I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of projects I will get to do next. Later this year I have plans to move to Asia so there is a possibility I will get to meet with my team in person!