Baker Botts, London
Why international arbitration?
It is truly international. It is incredibly varied, creative and competitive. It also involves political issues, legal theory and academic thinking, not just practical application of settled law.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
My first experience as lead counsel in an ICC arbitration in Paris. We were hired only a month before the final hearing. We changed the entire case strategy and obtained a very favourable outcome for our client after a fascinating hearing. It was a veritable baptism of fire.
Who do you consider your mentor?
Gary Born and Jay Alexander. I met Gary when I was an intern at WilmerHale many years ago. I did not know a great deal about international arbitration then but was intrigued by Gary’s personality. He persuaded me to join the firm and move to London to build a world-class arbitration team. In the next few years, he taught me much of what I now know. I then moved to Baker Botts, where I started working with Jay Alexander, who today is a trusted friend. Jay has a incredibly analytical mind and is an excellent writer.
Who else in the field do you admire?
My partner at Baker Botts, Michael Goldberg. Michael is extremely gifted at cross-examination and incredible with clients. As to opposing counsel: the eloquent Toby Landau QC and the skillful Alistair Schaff QC.
What other career might you have chosen?
I would probably have joined Germany’s foreign service or become a corporate lawyer in Hamburg or my wife’s hometown, Barcelona.
What advice would you give someone just starting out?
I am not sure whether I am in a position yet to give advice but from the CVs that we have been receiving it seems to me that our field is becoming increasingly competitive. If you think it is sufficient to be very smart and highly educated to succeed, you are mistaken. Work harder than your peers. Never drop the ball. Try not to get overwhelmed by your billable work but keep an academic interest in the law. Go to conferences and publish. And don’t be impatient – your time will come.
Do you sit as an arbitrator?
Not yet, but I would love the opportunity.
What are the biggest challenges facing arbitration?
Hubris: arbitrators who believe that they have a vocation to make law, rather than an obligation to apply the law applicable to the dispute.
If you could change one thing about the system...?
I would introduce a mandatory three-month time limit for rendering the award, starting from the date of the submission of the post-hearing briefs.
What’s been your most memorable moment in an arbitration?
I have a fond memory of an ICC case seated in Geneva where the other side’s technical expert came to our side of the hearing room after an extremely damaging cross-examination. He shook hands with our lead counsel and said, clearly audible to everyone in the room, “Congratulations. You are a very smart man.” This has been my yardstick for a successful cross-examination ever since.
What’s your favourite city to arbitrate in?
Geneva. It allows me to catch up with old friends.
What’s your favourite restaurant?
The Fig in Islington.