Meet our DRS experts: Niall Lawless – a black belt arbitrator

6th September 2018

Niall Lawless is a Chartered Arbitrator, Information Systems Practitioner, Mechanical Engineer, Building Services Engineer and Chartered Builder. He offers a range of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services, and his commercial and technical expertise is particularly appropriate in both domestic and international commercial technology, engineering, and construction disputes. Niall currently works as an Arbitrator, Adjudicator and Mediator.

When and why did you become involved with Nominet’s award-winning Dispute Resolution Service (DRS)?

I originally qualified in construction and engineering, but in the 1990s I decided to retrain, becoming a Chartered IT Professional and a Fellow of the British Computer Society. My experience includes ownership and management of companies providing high added value consultancy and management with a focus on information technology. Through my responsibility for providing customers with industrial-strength internet solutions, I was acutely aware of the importance of domain names, and Nominet’s supervisory role. I have been a Nominet DRS Expert for a decade, since January 2008.

What has been the most unexpected or interesting aspect of this role?

Nominet’s DRS Experts enjoy a rich learning environment and become part of a community which includes some of the best IP lawyers and specialists in the world. Nominet supports its DRS Experts with a monthly and annual analysis of DRS cases. In January each year Nominet’s Experts come together in a DRS conference, where the most thought-provoking decisions are debated and discussed. Because of the nuance of competing or overlapping entitlement, some disputes involve a high level of intricacy, and are complex to determine. The most interesting aspect of the role of DRS Expert is considering the opinions and views of other DRS Experts in respect of complex decisions.

How did you get involved/interested in Alternative Dispute Resolution?

In business relationships issues arise and can escalate to disputes if not managed properly and promptly. Whereas the majority of commercial problems are routinely agreed and amicably settled through negotiation, I realised very few people have had any formal negotiation skills training. Because I was interested in finding effective, reasonable, efficient and inexpensive ways to resolve disputes, I became involved with ADR. My reasons for learning about ADR also included the acquisition of knowledge and skills, and self-improvement.

What do you find interesting about this area?

There is a variety of dispute resolution methods available, and the majority of my professional work in ADR acting as arbitrator, adjudicator, mediator, and expert witness has been interesting and rich. For example, as a Chartered Arbitrator I have published awards in commercial, construction and engineering, IT and technology disputes. As an Accredited Mediator I have helped resolve domestic and international commercial disputes; I have community and family mediation experience. Because I was active in ADR I was asked by the British Computer Society (BCS) to be Chair of its Professional Conduct Investigations Committee for six years. Unusually among professional bodies, the BCS Disciplinary Regulations provide for conciliation, and in my role as Chair I successfully carried out several complex and extremely sensitive conciliations which helped to protect the good international reputation of the BCS.

You have worked outside the UK in your area of specialism – what have been the most noteworthy aspects of work abroad?

Culture affects the ways that disputes arise and are resolved. In international disputes erudite parties are aware of this and will want to engage ADR professionals with cross-border experience. To help learn more about culture and dispute resolution, I was both a student and taught at the Faculty of Law at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. I was appointed as EU Expert to help China investigate improvements to its arbitration law; and I worked with Xi’An Arbitration Commission helping to finalise the English language version of their new arbitration rules. It is noteworthy and would surprise most Western people to see how open China is as a country, that its citizens have widespread access to information, and they are willing, accommodating and responsible participants in “One World, One Dream” global development.

What interests do you have outside your work?

For most of my adult life I have been involved with martial arts and have graded to black belt level in Taekwondo and Tukkong. Along the way I have been trained by Special Forces soldiers from three countries, and I have trained on three continents. My two sons Mogue (25) and Becan (24) have trained with me. Some people say that a family that eats together stays together, I say that a family that does martial arts together stays together. Contributing to society by way of volunteering is important to me. I have been a volunteer tour guide at Forbidden City in Beijing for over 10 years, I was a Samaritan volunteer for 15 years, and a volunteer community mediator for 10 years.

What technological advancements are you most looking forward to in the future, and why?

I am one of the few Europeans with a MA in Foresight and Futures, a degree I took because I wanted to learn about the future. A big concern is that people struggle with the ethical and moral dilemmas posed by the rapid advance of technology, and I look forward to more informed science-based debate and understanding as to how we can advance together with a One World perspective.

View the full list of our DRS experts and read more about the service here.