[Sponsored article] In a world where disagreements can arise about anything from contracts and construction claims to matters of family law and alleged medical malpractice, trained experts are needed to help resolve such issues without resorting to litigation and the courts. That is where the master of laws in arbitration and dispute resolution (LLMArbDR) offered by CityU School of Law comes in. It offers a unique blend of academic and practical training in the legal concepts and methods needed to act as an effective arbitrator in domestic and international cases. In addition, though, the two-year, part-time course also teaches mediation, adjudication and negotiation, using real-world sanitised scenarios which reflect the practices and procedures within the industry and society at large. “The teaching materials and course content are devised by practitioners to ensure they are current and compatible with today’s needs,” says Programme Director Christopher To. “And the learning is very interactive. Lecturers have industry-specific knowledge and use case studies, role plays, individual presentations and student-led discussions.” A typical intake of 80 students includes lawyers, social workers, doctors, construction engineers, civil servants and business people who already have between five and ten years’ professional experience. In the first year, the focus is on theory; in the second, on the practical side. In this way, students cover key areas like commercial contract and tort law, how to address procedural and legal issues to an Arbitration Tribunal, and how to draft a decision, explain the reasons for it in clear English, and ensure it is enforceable under law. The varied case studies then introduce them to different types of dispute – and how to resolve them – concerning everything from quality of work and design faults in construction disputes, financial matters in commercial arrangements to maritime disputes. Cases can be complicated by involving multiple parties, different jurisdictions, and having to interpret the law and procedures as well as reviewing case precedents to supplement one’s arguments before an arbitral tribunal. The teachers include practising solicitors, barristers, structural engineers and business managers who emphasise the practicalities entailed in reaching an agreement, not just the principles. “Our students are not just looking for a qualification, but something they can use in their jobs,” says To, who is an adjunct professor at the School of Law. “They want to learn as much as possible and really understand the subject, so they are able to analyse or prepare a case in future.” He also points out one important difference between arbitration and mediation. The former sees a neutral third-party make a determination which is binding in law and internationally enforceable. The latter uses a facilitative approach to negotiate and reach a non-binding agreement. Overseeing either, though, requires a high level of knowledge and experience. “The strength and beauty of the programme is that we are creating a new field of expertise in Hong Kong that will make Hong Kong competitive in the international dispute arena,” To says. Admission is merit-based, though applicants must have a first degree, or equivalent, and a good standard of English. Those whose work involves arbitration or other forms of dispute resolution may be preferred. The programme has achieved recognition from a number of professional bodies, including the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the Hong Kong Institute of Arbitrators, allowing graduates to practise in the field both in and outside Hong Kong.