Contributor Spotlight: VIAC

Tell us a little about your background (including, but not limited to: How did you get involved in dispute resolution? Why dispute resolution, and what do you consider the importance of dispute resolution?)

My first encounter with arbitration was in 1994. I was a summer intern in a Viennese law firm and my first assignment was to assist in an international arbitration – it was like jumping into the deep end, as I had never heard of this dispute resolution instrument before. I was so fascinated by the international environment and the exciting hearing days that I continued to work on the case until the award was rendered! From that point forward, it was clear that I wanted to pursue this path.

After working for awhile as an assistant at the Institute of Civil Procedural Law of Vienna University, I did an L.L.M. at the London School of Economics where I took a course in International Arbitration at the School of International Arbitration with Professor Julian Lew. My interest only deepened. Upon my return in 1998, I started as an associate in Vienna in the dispute resolution department of a law firm. After my bar exam in May 2001, I finalized my doctoral thesis on "Arbitration Agreements and Cessation" in 2003, and then opened my own small boutique law firm in 2004.

In 2005, 2007 and 2010, my three kids were born and during this period I concentrated mainly on teaching at the Vienna University, coaching the Viennese Vis Moot for the Willem C. Vis International Moot, and co-authoring a commentary on Austrian Arbitration Law.

In 2011, it so happened that VIAC was looking for a Deputy Secretary General (which is a position for a fixed 5-year term), and I applied and luckily was chosen. I have been in this position since January 2012 and was appointed Secretary General Designate of VIAC as of 1 January 2018. This is a great honor for me and I am looking forward to this new challenge.

Tell us about your institution. What types of cases do you manage, what are your institutional priorities, what do you specialize in, etc.?

VIAC now exists for more than 40 years. It was founded in 1975 as the international arbitral institution of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber. Since then, VIAC has administered more than 1600 cases with parties from all over the world. VIAC’s main focus however is the CEE region, where most of our parties originate. Since 2016 - VIAC also offers proceedings in various ADR methods, as well as, combinations of those with arbitrations in terms of Arb-Med-Arb-proceedings. What makes VIAC special is the informal way we guide our parties and arbitrators through the cases giving them support and advice whenever they find need.

What is the advantage of being a contributor of DRD data? 

First of all, VIAC is proud of having been offered the possibility to take part in this remarkable, innovative and GAR awarded (“best innovation by an individual or organization”) initiative.

Second, as arbitration often is criticized for being non-transparent and a matter of secret circles in which only insiders take part, it seems important to follow the call of the international arbitration community for enhanced transparency. The DRD project shows, among other things, information as to time and costs, which are crucial to the users of international arbitration and their decision to make use of arbitration. Therefore, DRD is able to further promote this important kind of dispute resolution.

How will your institution use aggregated DRD data? 

Being a data contributor allows VIAC to easily compare its data with the average of other institutions. Thus, we may now easily detect areas in which we are above average and promote these, but also see where we still have to improve our efforts. In addition, we can make more sophisticated analyses of our own data.

If another institution was thinking about becoming a data contributor, is there anything you want to share with them? 

It is absolutely worth the effort. The more institutions who provide their data, the better the project will serve as an opportunity to promote international arbitration and mediation as it provides answers to many questions users usually have. Filling in the data is easy and not very time-consuming as the data requested and the questions are straightforward and the user interface is clear and easy to use. Check and Dropdown boxes guarantee the comparability of the data and facilitate their input. Filling in the data also helps to get to know your own data better and allows for comparison of your institution’s data to the global norms.

Can you think of any specific example in the past when your institution might have benefited from the data that DRD now offers?

We are just starting to develop an electronic case management system. Previously, we had to create our statistics manually. DRD now provides us with various options to display the statistics of our own data. This is a huge advantage and saves a lot of time.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us about this experience? 

We think that the DRD project is a great initiative and hope that many more institutions will follow and contribute their data. A big thank you to Debi and Bill Slate for this precious step towards transparency.