The IBA Arb40 Subcommittee launched a competition to compile and publish poignant stories from this period, forming a distinctive compendium of shared experiences. Exploring the depths of the international arbitration community, the IBA Arb40 Common Heritage of International Arbitration Competition for the Most Meaningful Personal Stories unfolds a tapestry of diverse narratives.
Spanning the globe, these stories capture the human side of international arbitration, showcasing triumphs, challenges, and the interconnectedness that defines our professional journey. Each article in this collection offers a unique lens into our Common Heritage of International Arbitration, underscoring the significance of camaraderie, mentorship, and shared experiences within our global community.
The following article emerged victorious in the “Virtual Reality” category of the competition.
Chapter 1: How it all started
“You’ve got to try this,” my husband said, putting an uncomfortable-looking Oculus Quest 2 Virtual Reality (VR) headset over my head. I was sceptical.
But then I “picked up” a “paper” airplane, literally made out of thin air (or more precisely, code made of 0s and 1s). I flew it across the room and it soared—just like a paper airplane would.
I rode in a helicopter over Mount Everest—the 360-degree view of the sky and mountains took my breath away. The only thing that reminded me that this was not reality was the fact that I sat “out” of the helicopter! (Technical glitches.)
In Horizon Worlds, I walked into a large atrium filled with strangers. The closer I got to them, the more I could overhear their conversations. Everyone was stretching out their hands in wonderment, hardly believing they could see their hands in the virtual world.
Could I host the first-ever virtual reality event in international arbitration?
There was only one way to find out.
Chapter 2: The first-ever arbitration gathering
I posted an invitation on LinkedIn for anyone in the world to join me on 27 January 2022 in a Horizon Workroom. I decorated the meeting room with my own posters. It was a “first-ever” party after all!
More than ten people came, some by avatar and most by video-link. Paul joked about how he couldn’t create an avatar that looked older than 12 years old. Embarrassingly, I only discovered I was on mute when Mihaela noticed that my avatar had been gesturing vigorously for a few minutes without any sound.
It was also my first time meeting someone by avatar whom I didn’t already know in the physical world. It did make me wonder how much his avatar resembled his “real” person! This event made it clear that arbitration gatherings are possible. What could be next: a conference?
Chapter 3: A roundtable at 2022 Paris Arbitration Week
Together with other arbitration lawyers, on 30 March 2022, we hosted the first-ever conference in the metaverse as part of Paris Arbitration Week.
There were 16 of us round the table—all “in-person” while being physically located all around the world. The most incredible thing was feeling like I was presenting to an in-person audience. I could even hear those next to me more clearly than I could hear those at the other end of the room. I could even “high-five” the person next to me and stars would fly!
This was a proper panel discussion: with four avatar speakers and a moderator. We introduced the idea of the metaverse, the web 3.0 digital economy and their implications for dispute resolution.
Our 200 participants were so keen, we stayed for a whole two hours. We imagined where VR could take us: perhaps even virtual reality hearings?
Chapter 4: Mute-Off in the Metaverse
The COVID-19 Pandemic propelled us into the virtual world: why should virtual reality not be the next frontier?
Through Mute-Off Thursdays, women in international arbitration found a way to connect virtually despite social and travel restrictions. It is a forum for sharing knowledge and offering support.
I figured the best way to share knowledge of the metaverse was to bring people there. On7 April 2022, our panel in the metaverse was streamed via Zoom to a larger audience of 50.
It was one of the most thrilling discussions I’ve ever had on what the future holds for dispute resolution.
Chapter 5: Where to go from here?
This is my story of how I’ve tried to share my knowledge of VR and the metaverse to my field: each chapter evolving and improving. We’re at the iPhone 2 stage of VR: promising but buggy and limited to early adopters. But a decade later we may all be donning haptic gloves and headsets every day. As more and more of us engage in the web 3.0 digital economy, its complexity and richness will inevitably lead to novel disputes and legal issues. It is important for lawyers to understand these technologies now.
There’s still a lot to explore. I’d love to see Vis Moot host the first-ever mock international arbitration hearing. With a tribunal of three members, and counsel for each side. Or perhaps a mock cross-examination of an expert in the metaverse. I’d like the arbitration community to explore different metaverses together. Perhaps we host the next conference in an outdoor amphitheatre in AltSpaceVR.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elizabeth Chan (陳曉彤) is a Registered Foreign Lawyer at Tanner De Witt in Hong Kong, specialising in international arbitration, litigation and restructuring and insolvency. She has worked in arbitration at Allen & Overy (Hong Kong), Three Crowns (London), and Herbert Smith Freehills (New York and Hong Kong). She is ranked as a Future Leader of Who’s Who Legal Arbitration (2022-2024), the Legal 500 Arbitration Private Practice Powerlist: UK (2022) and Legal 500’s inaugural Arbitration Powerlist – Hong Kong (2023). Elizabeth hosted the first-ever virtual reality arbitration gathering in January 2022. Elizabeth regularly writes and speaks on topics on the intersection of technology and dispute resolution, including dispute resolution in the metaverse context as well as valuation issues in crypto disputes.
This article was first published on the website of the Arbitration Committee of the Legal Practice Division of the International Bar Association, and is reproduced by kind permission of the International Bar Association, London, UK. © International Bar Association.
Available at: https://www.ibanet.org/Arb40-Competition