Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Paris
Why international arbitration?
I was a diplomat before I became a lawyer, and I would not have switched professions unless I felt intellectually challenged most of the time and found a sufficient international element in my work. That’s what arbitration brings.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
I’ve been fortunate to be involved in some of the most exciting cases of the past years, and all of them were highlights: Loewen v USA, Karaha Bodas v Pertamina, CMS v Argentina, Parkerings v Lithuania, Conoco v Venezuela, Berschader v Russian Federation. And serving as arbitrator has been a great source of satisfaction for me, even in the small contract cases.
Who do you consider your mentor?
Jan Paulsson, Eric Schwartz, and Paul Friedland.
Who else in the field do you admire?
Laurent Levy, Julian Lew and Johnny Veeder – these are lawyers of truly international stature who remain kind, approachable and gentle people.
What other career might you have chosen?
I was a diplomat before, I probably would have remained in that career, or gone into academia (Russian foreign policy).
What advice would you give someone just starting out?
Become first and foremost a master of your “own” national law – to give the best advice in arbitration you need to be grounded in some national legal system. It’s best that the system you choose be the one you grew up in.
Do you sit as an arbitrator?
Yes – I got my first appointment at age 33 in an UNCITRAL case, because counsel for one of the parties knew me and (I suppose) thought I would do a good job. A few months later (at age 34) I got my first appointment from the ICC, because they were looking for a common-law lawyer living in continental Europe who spoke both Hebrew and Russian. I suppose I was one of the only arbitration specialists around who fit the bill.
What are the biggest challenges facing arbitration?
Rising costs and lengthening times to render awards. Unless arbitration can be moderately speedy and economical, parties will find other ways to resolve their disputes (for example, in the English courts).
If you could change one thing about the system...?
I would ensure that arbitrators would only accept arbitral appointments based on a commitment to render an award within two months, absent exceptional circumstances.
What’s your favourite city to arbitrate in?
Paris, naturally! It is geographically central, enjoys highly pro-arbitration courts, excellent logistical support and hearing space, and is relatively affordable (compared to London, for example). Tel Aviv comes a close second – it adds a different level of comfort to arbitrate right on the beach.
What’s your favourite restaurant?
Tse Yang (Paris) or Kai of Mayfair (London).