Allen & Overy, Frankfurt
Why international arbitration?
Initially, it was all accident (as so often in life). When applying for a scholarship, my professor asked me what areas of law I liked. Given my answer - procedural, international and comparative law, he suggested international arbitration. I followed his advice and entered a field that has fascinated me since then, first as a research student on Southeast-Asian arbitration law and later as a practitioner.
Who do you consider your mentor?
I did my first arbitration course with Judy Freedberg in the Netherlands. My first practical stint was with as stagiaire with Jan Paulsson in Paris in 1999. With Richard Kreindler in Frankfurt I learned my trade and was introduced to the arbitration circuit. I am thankful to them for their support.
Who else in the field do you admire?
Emmanuel Gaillard, a thought leader who takes our field further. Klaus Sachs, for being a truly international German arbitration lawyer.
What other career might you have chosen?
I would have moved to Provence to become a winemaker (now I just drink it).
What advice would you give someone just starting out?
Take a course in international arbitration to get a solid foundation in the field. Join under-40 arbitration groups to network among your peers and work with a leading arbitration team to get full exposure.
Do you sit as an arbitrator?
I regularly sit as arbitrator and thoroughly enjoy the change of perspective. My first arbitrator appointment was at the age of 32 in an ICC matter as sole arbitrator. Again a lucky accident, as the parties needed that rare species: a German national who spoke Dutch.
What are the biggest challenges facing arbitration?
Given the expotential international growth of the field, it will be challenging to keep the essential esprit de corps.
If you could change one thing about the system...?
The flexibility of the process should be fully rediscovered.
What’s been your most memorable moment in a hearing?
Cross-examination is always a highlight. Recently, a witness admitted when I had grilled him for three hours about whether his statement was true or false that it was “practically true”.
What’s your favourite city to arbitrate in?
Paris - simply the most beautiful venue.
What’s your favourite restaurant?
Jean-Luc Rabanel, Arles, France.
* An earlier version of this interview incorrectly named Jan Schaefer as a partner at Allen & Overy. We apologise for the error.