Book Review: Redfern and Hunter on International Arbitration

Redfern and Hunter on International Arbitration.  Nigel Blackaby and Constantine Partasides with Alan Redfern and Martin Hunter.  Fifth Edition, Oxford University Press, 2009.  ($195 | 904 pages | Hardcover: 9780199557189 / $85 | 776 pages | Paperback: 9780199557196).

While in law school I took a class on arbitration and alternative dispute resolution.  Despite my true interest in the topic, no other required reading made me quite as sleepy as my arbitration textbook.  Given this background, it was with trepidation, but after a good night’s sleep, that I began my review of Redfern and Hunter on International Arbitration.  Fortunately, I needn’t have worried.  The Fifth edition of this book is straightforward, well-written, and accessible and provides a practical and detailed treatment of the theory and practice of international arbitration.  I recommend it to any academic library that collects in the area of international arbitration, as well as any library that serves arbitrators, counsel for arbitrations, or practitioners who employ arbitration clauses in international commercial contracts.

In 1986, Sweet and Maxwell published the first edition of Alan Redfern and Martin Hunter’s book entitled Law and Practice of International Commercial Arbitration, which became a well-respected treatise in the area of international arbitration.  Redfern and Hunter updated the book with second and third editions published in 1991 and 1999.  By the fourth edition in 2004, Redfern and Hunter brought in Nigel Blackaby and Constantine Partasides, partners in Freshfields Bruckhuas Deringer’s international arbitration group, to begin taking over the updating of subsequent editions.  Notably, the current edition is the first to be by Blackaby and Partasides with Redfern and Hunter and it features a name change, dropping the “Law and Practice” and the “Commercial” as well as adding Redfern’s and Hunter’s names to the title. The publisher for the new edition has also changed.  This edition is from Oxford while previous editions were published by Sweet and Maxwell.  For many reasons, including improved clarity, organization, and appearance, this edition is an improvement over previous ones.

Besides the name, attribution, and publisher changes, there are many alterations to this edition worth noting.  Substantively, the new edition contains a longer section on arbitrators’ challenges, and new, but small, sections on electronic documents in discovery and United States court’s power to order discovery in private arbitral tribunals–a power first recognized by a late 2006 case.  Also, the work has been updated in terms of new case law and arbitration awards.  A comparison of the fourth and fifth editions’ tables of cases and arbitration awards shows many additions and deletions, most of which occurred from 2004-forward.  Comparison of dozens of sections and paragraphs confirms that the book was not merely updated with recent case law and awards.  Although much of the fourth edition’s language remains verbatim, it is obvious that each section was carefully edited.  Most sections evidence at least minor changes in word choice or punctuation.  When word choices or sentence structures have been changed, the results are improved clarity and readability.  Cosmetically, the fifth edition improves on previous ones in that it has bigger pages, a less-cramped layout, and a more attractive typesetting.

The work has undergone improvements in terms of finding tools and appendixes as well.  The most valuable enhancement is a much-improved index, which is roughly twice as long as the previous one.  The new index includes more detailed entries and eliminates the need to consult both index and tables to locate information.  In comparisons of fourth and fifth editions’ indexes, the fifth easily outperformed the previous edition every time.  Because the better index has reduced a user’s reliance on the tables, the fifth edition retains the most important ones: those of contents, of cases, and of arbitration awards, while omitting the previous edition’s tables of statutes, major arbitration conventions, international arbitration rules, civil codes, treaties, and directives/European Regulations/Civil Procedure Rules.  The fifth edition has also scaled back the appendixes by eliminating the less useful appendix of model arbitration clauses and the appendix scoring various countries on their adherence to transnational arbitration treaties.

This is the fifth edition of a work originally published in 1986.  Previous editions occurred in 1991, 1999, and 2004.  If past performance is an indication, we will likely be faced with the option to purchase a new edition by 2014, or earlier, given that UNCITRAL arbitration rules are currently under revision and new decisions or awards continue to shape the future of arbitration practice.

Reviewed by Jennifer Duperon, Legal Information Librarian & Coordinator of Electronic Services at Boston University’s Pappas Law Library.

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April 2010

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