Reasoned Awards in International Commercial Arbitration: Embracing and Exceeding the Common Law-Civil Law Dichotomy

Unlike many types of domestic arbitration where unreasoned awards (often called “standard awards”) are the norm, international commercial arbitration routinely requires arbitrators to produce fully reasoned awards. However, very little information exists as to what constitutes a reasoned award in the international commercial context or how to write such an award. This lacuna is extremely problematic given the ever-increasing number of international commercial arbitrations that arise every year and the significant individual and societal costs that can result from a badly written award. Although this Article is aimed primarily at specialists in international commercial arbitration, the material is also useful to numerous other individuals. For example, the information contained herein can be used to assist judges involved in enforcing reasoned awards domestically or internationally, scholars studying arbitral decision-making, arbitrators and tribunal secretaries involved in the drafting of individual awards, and domestic arbitrators seeking to understand what a reasoned award is under national law. The primary focus of this Article is to analyze various process-oriented and structural issues relating to reasoned awards in international commercial arbitration so as to improve the practical and theoretical understanding of international awards. That discussion, which is found in Section IV, considers various factors from both the common law and civil law perspectives so as to take into account the blended nature of international commercial arbitration.