Questions for the Adjudicator

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Questions for the Adjudicator

October, 2020
Matthew Thorne

Matthew- thanks for agreeing to be the test subject for this new feature. Let’s start with an easy one: how long have you been adjudicator?

I issued my first decision back in October 2014, so I’ve been on the TECBAR panel for at least 6 years. It’s been a busy time ever since – both as adjudicator and also as party representative. The industry seems to be getting busier and busier, and adjudications seem to be taking an ever more prominent role in dispute resolution.

What led you to join the TECBAR panel?

The TECBAR panel was an obvious choice. As a member of TECBAR, and having sat on its committee, I have seen the importance placed by TECBAR on maintaining a strong panel of highly-qualified adjudicators. 

What hurdles were there to overcome / what were the training requirements?

There were a number of steps to qualification, including membership of TECBAR (which has its own requirements), as well as an obligation to undertake separate adjudicator training. After initial qualification, TECBAR also keeps its panel up to date by requiring panel adjudicators to refresh their knowledge through further periodic training. 

How did you find your first adjudication? 

By the time of my first appointment, I was already well-versed in the realities of adjudication as counsel and party representative. I knew what the parties were likely to do to try to get their own way on procedures and timings. This meant that there wasn’t much by way of surprise. That said, I did rather enjoy being on the other end of submissions!

How much overlap is there in terms of your skillset as an advocate and the skills you need to be an effective adjudicator? Has sitting as an adjudicator changed anything about the way you work as an advocate?

Having represented clients on countless adjudications before a great many different adjudicators, you get a good sense of what the parties want from an adjudication. For the most part, they want to know that they have been fairly treated, that their arguments have been understood and considered, and that the decision is rational and clearly explained. Those three matters have therefore been my focus when acting as an adjudicator.

Have you undertaken any adjudications during the pandemic? If so, how has that impacted your work? 

Yes, there seem to have been more adjudications than ever this summer – both as counsel and as adjudicator. That is probably to be expected, given the difficulties and uncertainty facing the industry. The adjudications themselves, however, remain much the same in substance and procedure: a paper-based determination without oral hearing is the ‘norm’. The only real difference has been the additional time requested by parties in order to present their cases, typically as a result of employee absence or difficulty in accessing the relevant records. That said, I have found that parties have generally accommodated these difficulties, granting additional time where necessary, knowing no doubt that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Would you recommend sitting as an adjudicator to other practitioners?

Absolutely. Given the increasing number of cases going to adjudication, it is vital that the quality of adjudicators is high to maintain faith in the system, and practitioners are in a great position to fulfil this role. It can also complement other work, can be accommodated fairly flexibly, and can give great insight into what adjudicators are really looking for.

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