The preliminary meeting is the first meeting the arbitrator will hold with the parties or their representatives. This meeting will normally be convened after the arbitrators have been appointed.
A preliminary meeting is very significant in arbitral proceedings and the reasons are numerous. Some of these are:
- To introduce the arbitrators to the parties or their representatives.
- It helps both parties and arbitrators to plan effective arbitration proceedings.
- It helps the arbitrators to confirm their appointment
- It gives the arbitrator the opportunity to consider submissions from the parties as to the procedures required to be completed before he can make his award and the timetable for those.
Below is an example of what an agenda to preliminary meeting will look like.
In the matter of Arbitration Decree 1988 and in the matter of an arbitration between;
ABAKALIKI RICE CLAIMANT
LAGOS CONSUMERS LIMITED RESPONDENT
AGENDA FOR PRELIMINARY MEETING
To be held at the hearing room of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (Nigerian Branch) Secretariat, Old Niger House (2nd floor), 163-165 Broad street, Lagos on 30th October 2008.
1. Introduction of the arbitral tribunal, the parties and their counsel if any.
2. Addresses and particulars of the parties and their counsel and also of the arbitral tribunal.
3. The parties will decide through their counsels, if any, if there will be pleadings or not. If the parties decide that there will be pleadings, they may have to decide:
a. The number of days required for filing the parts of claim.
b. The number of days required for filing the points of defence after service of points of claim.
c. Since the points of defence may include a counter claim, the number of days required for defence to counter claim.
d. Whether there is need for any further pleadings and how much time is necessary.
4. If there should be a hearing or not;
a. Should it be a document only trial?
b. Should it be an oral hearing with or without documents
c. Should it be an oral hearing by personal appearance or by affidavit with liberty to cross-examine the despondent
5. Whether there should be discovery and interrogatories.
6. Whether there is need for a visit to the focus in question.
7. Whether there is any anticipated difficulty in taking evidence.
8. Where the arbitrator is not a lawyer, whether he should have power to take legal advice.
9. Whether there is need for assessor to be employed
10. If there should be an exchange of proof of evidence and how this should be done, whether it should be consecutive or concurrent.
11. The date and hearing of next meeting.
12. The issue of arbitrator’s fees and administrative fees and the appropriate deposits will be considered and agreed upon.
13. Can an arbitrator use his expert knowledge and experience? Any restrictions?
14. Does the arbitrator have the authority to record any agreements reached at the preliminary meeting on behalf of the parties.
15. Any other business.
From all the aforementioned reasons, it is clear that for effective arbitration proceedings, a preliminary meeting is necessary and significant part of the proceedings.