Ank Santens
Belgium
  • PositionPartner
  • FirmWhite & Case LLP
  • Age-
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Ank Santens

Ank Santens

Belgium
  • Position: Partner
  • FirmWhite & Case LLP
  • Age: -

Partner
38
White & Case, New York
Belgian

Why international arbitration?

The “international” part remains a draw card. I also enjoy the analytical reasoning and creativity that the work requires and the stimulation of advocacy. Finally, I really enjoy the community – this vast web of people linked by a shared love for the field and joining regularly to share intellectually and socially is unique to this field of law.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

The case we brought on behalf of Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov and a number of national chess federations against the World Chess Federation at the Court of Arbitration for Sport last summer. The case related to the federation's presidential elections. We completed a whole arbitration with full pleadings and witness and expert testimony in less than three months, as we needed a ruling before the elections – in which Karpov ran – would take place.

Who do you consider your mentor?

Paul Friedland recruited me to White & Case back in 2000 and has been a friend and mentor ever since.. I also am eternally grateful to Professor Hans Smit who helped me a great deal when I started out in this field. Chris Seppala has given me a solid foundation in the world of international construction disputes and I also learned a great deal from Steve Bond when working with him during my two-year stint in our Paris office.

Who else in the field do you admire?

Henri Alvarez. Great intellect, a real gentleman, always well prepared, and respectful towards everyone. A superb arbitrator who remains grounded despite his immense success. In my generation, I have real admiration for Tony Landau who is arguably the best speaker around, both as to substance and presentation.

What advice would you give someone just starting out?

Focus on establishing a good reputation through solid work in everything you do. It’s a small world and you will be coming across the same people again and again.

Do you sit as an arbitrator?

Yes. My first appointment was as a sole arbitrator in an ICC case on the recommendation of the Belgian national committee. I was 34.

What are the biggest challenges facing arbitration?

As arbitration is a creature of contract or treaty, parties need to continue to favour it as a dispute resolution mechanism for international transactions and investment. The biggest challenge is thus the swinging back of the pendulum and the current criticisms from corporations and states. I also fear the day when a multilateral enforcement mechanism for foreign judgments comes into widespread existence, as then one of the key advantages of arbitration over litigation will have disappeared.

What’s been your most memorable moment in a hearing?

Once at a hearing when I was a junior associate, I needed to go to the bathroom while the partner was conducting a cross-examination. I ran out of the hearing room but could not find a ladies’ room, and in my urge to get back to the hearing I decided to go for the men’s room. Imagine my agony when the tribunal decided to take a break and all three tribunal members and both counsel entered the men’s room.

What’s your favourite city to arbitrate in and why

I have no clear favourite. When you’re acting as counsel, the only things you’re really interested in are good hearing facilities and a comfortable hotel close by so that you can easily navigate back and forth. I’ve never had a hearing in a city that was so remote that these basic parameters were not met.

What’s your favourite restaurant?

Mari Vanna in New York is a great recent discovery. Russian home-cooking in a cozy but trendy Russian living room setting in Gramercy. Fantastic food and ambience! Maison Bru, in Eygalières in Provence, is pretty spectacular. And of course Jobi in Rio for late-night arbitration events!

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