Arthur Marriott was presented the award by GAR publisher David Samuels after an introduction by his friend, Hong Kong-based arbitrator Neil Kaplan QC – receiving a standing ovation from guests. Active in law for nearly half a century, Marriott was one of the first solicitors to be made Queen’s Counsel (in 1997) and served as a recorder and deputy High Court judge in London, as well as appearing on numerous arbitral tribunals in Europe, Asia and the US.
He practised at Debevoise & Plimpton and headed the international arbitration group at Dewey & LeBoeuf, later setting up as a barrister and independent arbitrator based in Gray’s Inn.
Marriott was a driving force behind the Arbitration Act 1996, still the statutory basis for arbitration in England and Wales. Kaplan described Marriott’s key role in the act’s passage. After the Departmental Advisory Committee set up by Margaret Thatcher’s government to review English arbitration law decided not to adopt the UNCITRAL Model Law in 1989, Marriott co-wrote a more ambitious draft bill which eventually became the basis of the 1996 Act. “Arthur was our first arbitration politician,” Kaplan said. “Without his foresight and determination none of this would have occurred. He knew what was needed and he knew how to use the system to get it done. He ensured London’s long-term prosperity as an arbitral venue.” Kaplan also described Marriott’s work in establishing the practice of mediation in Hong Kong.
Marriott spoke briefly about the challenges facing the practice of law in the modern age.
Marriott highlighted the “mass of detail” which needs to be mastered by practitioners of arbitration in individual disputes and to achieve general competence in the field. “We’ve got to find ways of making that simpler, and the sooner the better.” One way might be to look to technology. Marriott, who in 2012 advised on the creation of an online system for dispute resolution in India, shared his view that the legal profession has only just begun to “touch the power of technology for its ability to deal with disputes.” Marriott also spoke about yesterday’s general election in the UK – which led to a Conservative majority and a second term for Prime Minister David Cameron – and the possibility of a new justice secretary to replace Chris Grayling. He expressed concern that the legal system and lawyers should serve the vulnerable in society. “What do people expect from the legal system, and are they getting it?” he asked. “If someone is unemployed, he or she needs information about entitlements. If people are sick, they need information about their rights, ranging from benefits to re-employment.” “It may be that I am out of touch. But somebody’s got to be in touch, and that somebody should be in this room.”
Marriott was joined at the dinner by his carer Ivars Vilcans and other friends and former colleagues. Among them were Daniel Gal of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, who worked with him at Debevoise and Dewey, and Paul Cohen of Perkins Coie in New York, a former Dewey colleague with whom he wrote a book on international corruption. GAR’s lifetime achievement award is the third such honour that Marriott has received in the last year. In March 2014 he was honoured by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, which named the new members’ room of their headquarters at Bloomsbury Square, London, after him, and in September 2014 he received Arbitral Women’s “Honourable Man” award alongside Geoffrey Beresford-Hartwell for his support of female practitioners.