Maritime Matters

For many years I did the recruiting at a maritime law firm, and in that context explained many times that anything that can happen to people on land or in land-based commerce or mineral activities, can also happen to them on the water. The vocabulary, fact patterns, commercial and financial practices of shipping commerce, evidence likely to be available, legal traditions, doctrines and cases that make maritime problems distinctive – these are ingrained by forty years of maritime practice. Charter parties, bills of lading, general average, letters of undertaking or of indemnity, Carriage of Goods by Sea, clause paramount – these are some of the maritime solutions to human commercial problems. Longshoremen, Jones Act seamen, telling the two apart – these are some of the labeling issues that have real consequences in the maritime context. Sure, lawyers are accustomed to informing and educating mediators (as well as judges and fact-finders) about the law applicable to their cases, but I believe it helps to speak the language, to have been on the ships and platforms and docks, to have worried about the nuances in the applicable cases, to have lived with the communications challenges of an international commercial practice. Even so, I continue to invite counsel’s efforts to inform and educate me as a neutral, and I continue to try to be able to see each problem from all parties’ respective points of view.