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Launch of Racial Equality for Arbitration Lawyers (REAL)

28 December, 2020

Racial Equality for Arbitration Lawyers (REAL) is a new initiative launched by a group of global lawyers practicing international arbitration who are committed to striving to achieve racial equality for arbitration lawyers.

REAL is led by co-chairs ArbitralWomen Board member Rekha Rangachari, ArbitralWomen member Crina Baltag and Kabir Duggal. The organisation is incorporated as a non-profit entity under the laws of New York.

The REAL Steering Committee includes ArbitralWomen members Crina Baltag, Chiann Bao, Louise Barrington, Mélida Hodgson, Sara Koleilat-Aranjo, Dana MacGrath, Mirèze Philippe, Rekha Rangachari and Nancy Thevenin. Other members of the REAL Steering Committee include San Funke Adekoya, Cecilia Azar Manzur, Christopher Campbell, Eleonora Coelho, Earl Rivera-Dolera, Kabir Duggal, Mansi Karol, Jaroslav Kudrna, Tafadzwa Pasipanodya, Rana Sajjad Ahmed, Fernando Tupa and Salim Sleiman.

REAL looks to champion underrepresented groups in international arbitration. Anyone who wants to contribute to promoting awareness of the lack of racial diversity and facilitate change can be a member. There is no membership fee. Members are simply encouraged to help facilitate the cause for greater racial representation in international arbitration. Together the Steering Committee and members of REAL aim to facilitate dialogue, action, and change.

A core goal of REAL is to increase access to the “arbitration club” – to open the door to more practitioners. One avenue is to offset the socio-economic limitations for many entering the international arbitration field with community-building for young and mid-level practitioners.

Key strategic aims of REAL include progressing racial equality and representation of other unrepresented groups in international arbitration and international law more generally, considering the challenges posed by intersectionality when it comes to diversity and inclusion, creating a platform to address issues of systemic discrimination and implicit bias in international arbitration, collaborating with and supporting other initiatives that address diversity and inclusion to make international arbitration equitable for all participants, and creating a safe space for under-represented groups in international arbitration to discuss the challenges they face.

Windows open in moments to activate us, as a community, to create change. What lies at the core of any grassroots movement like REAL is the belief that we can do it better together. Pandemic has taught us that we are resilient, adaptable, and ever evolving. In step with this, inspired by the gold standard initiatives like ArbitralWomen already in place or nascent in form like REAL, we are anchored by fundamental pillars of access and advocacy,” remarked Rekha Rangachari, co-chair of REAL and Executive Director of the New York International Arbitration Center.

We need to address diversity in international arbitration in a comprehensive manner” commented Crina Baltag, co-chair of REAL and Senior Lecturer at Stockholm University. “While racial diversity might not be the most comfortable of conversations, we need to begin somewhere. REAL was created to facilitate this dialogue.”

Kabir Duggal, co-chair of REAL and Senior International Arbitration Advisor at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP noted, “Recent events in the US and around the world have placed racial diversity in the spotlight. This gives us an opportunity to reflect on the realities of racial representation in our own international practice. This is an impetus for REAL. We look at the success of ArbitralWomen and the Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge as models for us to collaborate together to address the broader goals of diversity in our practice. Indeed, the support of ArbitralWomen is pivotal to us as we formulate and think of racial diversity. Will you get #REAL with us?

REAL will launch formally on 18 January 2021 with two virtual inauguration sessions at 9am and 5pm Eastern Standard Time (EST). Stay tuned for details on the launch event and REAL initiatives on REAL’s LinkedIn handle. All who are interested in learning more about REAL are welcomed to register free of charge to attend.


Submitted by Dana MacGrath, ArbitralWomen President and Investment Manager, Legal Counsel at Omni Bridgeway