A boutique that overtly sets out to attract the smaller claim
- Who’s Who name:
- Jennifer Kirby
Arbitration boutiques seem to flourish in Paris – one of the newest is Kirby, founded by Jennifer Kirby, a former partner of Herbert Smith and deputy secretary general of the ICC Court.
Kirby’s career started in the US; she’s originally from California. After working on international litigation and arbitration for Proskauer Rose and then Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York, she moved to Paris and became counsel at the ICC. There she rose through the ranks, becoming deputy secretary general.
She was the only member of an arbitral institution selected for GAR’s inaugural “45 under 45” in 2006.
On leaving the ICC, she joined Herbert Smith as a partner. In mid-2010 she decided to go it alone. She did so, she explained at the time, having noticed a gap in the market. Namely, the vast majority of international arbitration claims are for sums of less than US$10 million, but arbitration expertise is locked up in organisations too expensive to use on those. After discussing the situation with in-house counsel, “it became clear that many are tired of paying big-firm rates for arbitration expertise in relatively low-value disputes,” she recalls.
To fill the gap, the eponymous firm was started with a view to offering representation under all the major rules at a price tailored to the smaller case. It has only one employee – Kirby herself – but scales up as needed using contacts around Paris. It also offers early case assessment and expert opinions, and will be co-counsel with larger firms too. Kirby also sits as an arbitrator. Wherever possible, the firm works for an alternative fee arrangement.