On 11 August 2020, the London Court of International Arbitration ('LCIA') published its latest updates to the LCIA Arbitration Rules and LCIA Mediation Rules (the 'LCIA Rules 2020').
The LCIA has stated these updates, due to take effect on 1 October 2020, aim to make its arbitral and mediation processes more streamlined and clear. With the LCIA facilitating a record number of referrals in 2019, including some 346 arbitrations pursuant to its rules, it will be interesting to see whether these changes have the desired impact.
Amongst the changes introduced is the addition of an explicit reference to the arbitrator's power to use early dismissal determination. As per Article 22.1(viii) of the LCIA Rules 2020, this allows an arbitrator to issue an order / award determining that a matter is outside of the jurisdiction of the Arbitral Tribunal, or that it is inadmissible or manifestly without merit. Whilst it was generally accepted that this power was provided for implicitly under the LCIA Rules 2014, its codification should help to prevent future disputes as to the availability of early dismissal arbitration in LCIA proceedings.
In addition, and perhaps in recognition of the 'new normal' that parties should expect in international arbitration proceedings, a significant portion of the updates provided for in the LCIA Rules 2020 deal with the accommodation and use of technology during the arbitration process. In this respect, and amongst other things, the LCIA Rules 2020 confirm the primacy of electronic communication in proceedings (see, for example, Article 4.1), and facilitate the use of virtual hearings. Reference is also made to the delivery of arbitral awards by 'any electronic means' (see Article 26.7).
Also of interest is the introduction of the 'Composite Request'. As per Article 1.2 of the LCIA Rules 2020, a Composite Request may be made where a Claimant wishes to commence more than one set of arbitration proceedings at the same time. Any such proceedings may be against one or more Respondent, and could be under one or more Arbitration Agreement. This concept should be welcomed by users of the LCIA Rules, as it helps to prevent parties with similar or connected issues from having to incur the costs of issuing separate proceedings. Under the LCIA Rules 2014, Composite Requests were not considered to be possible, given that the Commercial Court in A v B  EWHC 3417 (Comm) had found that the LCIA Rules 2014 required that a new arbitration request was submitted for each and every arbitration.
Further notable amendments include the addition of explicit provisions addressing the role of tribunal secretaries and data protection and regulatory issues.
The LCIA Rules 2020 provide a helpful and timely refresh to the LCIA's procedural requirements. We hope that other arbitration institutions will follow the lead of the LCIA in ensuring that their rules reflect the wants and needs of the international arbitration community, particularly in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic.
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