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GAR 100 - 11th Edition

Berwin Leighton Paisner

04 April 2018

The practice is under new leadership again

People in Future Leaders 2
Pending cases as counsel 46
Value of pending counsel work
US$2.8 billion
Treaty cases 1
Current arbitrator appointments 3 (of which 2 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 3

One of the London market’s success stories, BLP was formed from the 2001 merger of Berwin Leighton and Paisner & Co, and doubled its turnover within five years thanks to its strength in the commercial real estate sector.

The merged firm established an international arbitration practice with a construction disputes slant, led by Michael Polonsky in London. Initially, the team was supplemented by members of the construction group and later by members of a Russian firm that was absorbed in 2009.

It took off with the recruitment of Nic Fletcher from Clifford Chance, who had worked under John Beechey (the past president of the ICC International Court of Arbitration). Now a QC, Fletcher left the firm in 2014 to practise as an independent arbitrator from 4 New Square in London.

After his departure, the practice was co-led by Richard Power in London and Kent Phillips in Singapore. Power left for Clyde & Co in 2015 and Phillips for Hogan Lovells a year later – leaving the practice in the hands of Jonathan Sacher.

In September 2017 there was another change of leadership, with former Vinson & Elkins partner George Burn joining in London to take over the mantle of practice head. Burn brings experience of investor-state and commercial work and also sits as an arbitrator.

Other names to know in London include Clifford Chance alumnus Roman Khodykin, who contributes to its strength in Russia and CIS disputes; and Ania Farren, who joined in 2016 from K&L Gates and has acted in investment treaty and gas price review cases.

The firm is one of a few to possess an in-house forensic services group to advise on quantum issues.


While most of the arbitration specialists are based in London, the group has people in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore. The firm operates in Moscow under the name Goltsblat, with the practice led by Elena Trusova. The wider firm also has offices in Berlin, Frankfurt and Paris.

Who uses it?

BLP’s international clients include AIG, Arabtec, Balfour Beatty, Barclays, Blackstone, Canary Wharf, Chartis, Hellenic Petroleum, Lloyds, Hyundai Engineering and Construction, JCG Corporation, National Grid, Qatari Diar, Samsung Engineering, Shell, Sberbank, Standard Chartered, Tesco, Thames Water, The Financial Times, UBS and VTB Bank.

The arbitration team has handled several matters for project companies of AES, the US-based power company. That led to instructions in energy-related disputes, including defending the state of Lagos in Nigeria against a claim by Enron.

Scottish Power, the UK subsidiary of Spanish oil and gas company Iberdrola, has used it for various matters including in a £20 million gas price dispute.

KBR and Italy’s Snamprogetti have instructed the group on engineering disputes under English and other governing laws, and the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago has retained it to advise on claims arising from the collapse of a major Caribbean insurer.

Track record

In 2012, the team secured a big win for South African financial institution Nedbank against the government of Gabon and helped to enforce a £25 million LCIA award against the state in favour of a South African construction company. Full payment was secured.

A team in Moscow successfully represented ING bank in a three-year claim to recover US$35 million against a Forbes List-featured Russian oligarch – and secured interest of US$860,000.

In a London-seated LCIA case, partner Michael Polonsky persuaded a sole arbitrator to decline jurisdiction over a dispute between joint venture partners in a gold mine operation in Kyrgyzstan. The claim was for more than US$16 million and the outcome reportedly crucial to the client’s survival.

BLP helped Russian insurer Ingosstrakh recover €75 million from reinsurers following the collapse of a hydropower plant in Russia – one of the largest insurance losses in Russia’s history. It also successfully settled two SCC arbitrations for a Russian manufacturer of air separation equipment.

Recent events

Besides Burn, the London office welcomed Richard Chalk, who joined after 22 years with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. Former Herbert Smith Freehills partner Gavin Margetson joined in Singapore, while partner James Clarke relocated from London to Singapore.

There was a win for an Indian conglomerate in its claim against an Indonesian mining company in relation to supply contracts for coal fired power stations in India – with all counterclaims being dismissed.

BLP is advising a multinational energy company in a US$50 million shareholder dispute at the ICC.

The firm is known for its annual arbitration survey which has explored party views on conflicts of interest, delay, document production and choice of seat. The latest survey focused on party-appointed arbitrators.

Client comment

A senior London QC praises Carol Mulcahy in London for her “tactical abilities and strong industry knowledge”, and describes Roman Khodykin as one of the top partners for disputes with a Russian angle.

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