Catherine Amirfar
United States of America
  • PositionPartner
  • FirmDebevoise & Plimpton LLP
  • Age-
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Catherine Amirfar

Catherine Amirfar

United States of America
  • Position: Partner
  • FirmDebevoise & Plimpton LLP
  • Age: -

Debevoise & Plimpton, New York
US citizen

Why international arbitration?

It’s a heady combination of worldly clients and an intellectually compelling practice that makes it tough to beat. My family and I fled Iran after the Iranian Revolution; at an early age I developed an abiding interest in international issues.

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

Being one of the youngest advocates to argue in the International Court of Justice in the Avena (Mexico v United States) case. It just doesn’t get better than standing up in the Peace Palace.

Who do you consider your mentor?

I have been truly fortunate to work at Debevoise with two of the very best in the field: Donald Donovan and David W Rivkin.

What advice would you give someone just starting out?

The best advice is to become a well-rounded, creative and credible advocate. Procedural flexibility regularly provides opportunities for creative solutions for our clients. The desire to persuade, however, cannot be allowed to interfere with an advocate’s credibility. If the panel harbours even the slightest doubt as to this, no presentation can be effective.

What are the biggest challenges facing arbitration?

The perception that it takes too long and is at too high a cost. While I think arbitration is still far ahead of litigation in this regard, the perception that the gap is closing is something we need to address. I am very happy that the Debevoise protocol, which sets out some basic recommendations to improve efficiency, has received so much attention in our community.

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

A cross-examination I conducted. Following a devastating admission, a silence descended on the hearing room and one of the arbitrators asked the witness, “Did you say what I think you said?”

What’s your favourite city to arbitrate in?

New York. In our business of constant travel, it’s nice to be close to home for hearings.

What’s your favourite restaurant?

A tiny spot in Oaxaca, Mexico, that serves the best guacamole I’ve ever tasted.

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