I was invited to join the board of the Polish National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce (International Chamber of Commerce – ICC). Bravo! I will add it to my CV – it will fit nicely with the rest of the information there. Perhaps some prospective client will take notice? You never know! Certainly it will make an impression on younger colleagues. Had I had this advantage when I was twenty-something, certainly it would have helped to make an impression on the girls.
But apart from that, why did I actually join this organization? Don’t I have enough to do as it is?
Only for a period of twenty years has Poland now been a rightful family member of the nations of the world. For twenty years we have been entering the international arena. In some fields it has been much easier for us; in others more difficult. In the areas where we are dealing with the consequence of population numbers and geographical location – more easily – but in areas in which less measurable criteria carry weight – not so well. We are doing worse in the “cream” area, namely where not entirely objectively verifiable criteria lead to prestigious functions (and money). In international arbitration we are not doing well at all. No Pole is regularly appointed in large international cases. I am yet to hear of a Polish arbiter in BIT matters (apart from Polish nominations). Poland is appointing arbiters from Pakistan, Mexico, Colombia and other countries that are not necessarily powerful in arbitration. In this scope, however, we find no reciprocity. I have heard that at the ICC last year there were twenty eight cases with a Polish element; however, only eight arbiters from Poland were involved. Why so?
I’ve heard the opinion that we are being omitted because of the “cream” factor of being an arbiter in large international cases. This is big and serious business, which the club members defend for purely mercenary reasons. For me, however, such a view is immanently strange. It smacks of Gombrowicz’s vision of Poles: permanently neglected, aspiring and embittered with lack of understanding. My experience is different – from my vantage point the world looks different. Since I started practicing as a lawyer in the international environment, I have encountered much interest and openness. That doesn’t mean “it is sufficient to be”. It is necessary to bring something interesting to the world, which will showcase that we have something to offer the international community. When I was searching for a new legal firm for myself and my colleagues, I quickly found people who treated us as equals – were open and interested in us, our culture, view of the world and in our experience. The K&L Gates partners really viewed us as an opportunity for further development. A similar situation occurred when, two years ago, I decided to organize a FIDIC conference in Warsaw. Earlier such conferences did not take place in our part of Europe. I had no contacts, acquaintances or “magic buttons”. Simply: here I am from Poland, I have such and such idea and I would like to organize a conference, but with you. And I managed. Will it succeed with the ICC? The truth is, I don’t know. Perhaps it sounds strange, but the ultimate goal is not the most important. The way to it is important. And the road leads through integrating the environment for good presentation of oneself in the international arena, for mutual promotion, for educating and integrating. In recent times, much has been done in this regard. Some really important international events took place, large conferences, meetings of leading international arbiters, our presence at international gatherings. It was certainly noticed – however, we need continuity of these events. The quality of work of Polish arbiters is also significant. There is, in spite of appearances, lots to do in this respect. It would also be good to relieve conflicts in this environment. Inasmuch as the competition is beneficial, some of it affects us negatively. Even if, for us, it does not fully succeed, efforts of this type are enriching us and the arbitration environment. This in itself is valuable.
And the ICC? The ICC can only assist us with these efforts.