The Vocation of International Arbitrators

American University International Law Review, Vol. 20, 2005

Bocconi Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-5

65 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2005 Last revised: 3 Mar 2020

See all articles by Catherine A. Rogers

Catherine A. Rogers

Bocconi University - Department of Law; UC Law, San Francisco


This Essay examines the vocation of the international arbitrator. I begin by evaluating, under sociological frameworks developed in literature on Weberian theories of the professions, how the arbitration community is organized and regulated. Arbitrators operate in a largely private and unregulated market for services, access to which is essentially controlled by what might be considered a governing cartel of the most elite arbitrators. I conclude my description with an account of how recently international arbitrators have begun to display a professional impulse, meaning efforts to present themselves as a profession to obtain the benefits of professionalization.

Professional status is often used by groups to distinguish themselves, but with international arbitrators, their supposed professionalization is not a particularly compelling reason for distinguishing them from other service providers, such as lawyers. Instead of relying on the rubric of sociological accounts, I offer a preliminary conceptual analysis of the normative underpinnings of the vocation of the international arbitrator. I argue that, unlike settlement or mediation, the aim of international arbitration is to render justice, not to simply resolve disputes. I provide an overview of the ways in which the practice of international arbitration bears out this hypothesis through its development of a vibrant, if perhaps still fledgling, public realm.

Finally, I return to the market for international arbitrator services and their efforts at self-regulation, evaluating them in light of obligations and expectations attendant with their justice-providing function and the public realm of the international arbitration system. I propose certain innovations that would increase the rigor and transparency in international arbitrator's self-regulation, including minimizing existing information asymmetries that affect the market for arbitrator services. These improvements may be regarded as having been implicitly promised through their professional impulse and by their justice-providing role, but to date have been elusive.

This article was the scholarly origin of Arbitrator Intelligence, which is now a legal tech startup to increase information and data analytics on international arbitrators.

Keywords: international, transnational supranational, arbitration, ethics, adjudication, professions, vocation, arbitrators, dispute resolution, conflicts of interest, professional services, justice

Suggested Citation

Rogers, Catherine A., The Vocation of International Arbitrators. American University International Law Review, Vol. 20, 2005, Bocconi Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-5, Available at SSRN:

Catherine A. Rogers (Contact Author)

Bocconi University - Department of Law ( email )

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UC Law, San Francisco ( email )

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United States

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