Debevoise & Plimpton, London
Why international arbitration?
It is the only relevant, dynamic, constantly evolving and truly global arena for the resolution of commercial disputes.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Arguing Exxon Mobil’s NAFTA claim with David W Rivkin at the World Bank in October 2010.
Who do you consider your mentor?
Gary Born (I spent seven formative, and very happy, years at the WilmerHale practice under his tutelage). Since moving to Debevoise three years ago, my closest mentors have been Lord Peter Goldsmith QC and David Rivkin. I am beyond lucky to have had several of the world’s leading practitioners as my mentors over the years.
Who else in the field do you admire?
Lucy Reed, for the perfect combination of intelligence, great mentoring, powerful advocacy, excellent judgement, contribution to the development of best practices in the area, and good grace. She’s a model we should all aspire to.
What other career might you have chosen?
The catwalk. Just kidding.
What advice would you give someone just starting out?
Obtain practical experience across a range of disciplines: I would take a talented litigator with an understanding of cross-border litigation issues over a postgraduate arbitration graduate with no practical experience any day of the week. Also, don’t underestimate the power of good mentoring. I suspect that most of those on this under-45 list (as well as many of those in GAR’s 2006 list) were mentored by one of the leading practitioners.
Do you sit as an arbitrator?
Yes, but within limits. Conflicts and the firm’s policy mean I probably turn down 10 cases for every one I accept. My first appointment was from either WIPO or the ICC (UK). Generally my first appointments had some specialised element to them - IP and technology - which few of the mainstream practitioners have. I also had a lot of referrals for arbitrator work during the financial crisis (I have a Masters degree in international finance) but the conflicts situation was difficult to overcome.
What are the biggest challenges facing arbitration?
To deliver excellence (as counsel and arbitrator) at a price point and within a time frame that is truly consistent with the demands and expectations of commercial clients all over the world. I also want to see some progress on ethical rules for counsel in international arbitration and hope that the IBA’s excellent work on this achieves the momentum and buy-in that it deserves.
If you could change one thing about the system...?
I would introduce a default rule whereby all tribunals are required to be constituted within 21 days of filing of a request for arbitration.
What’s your favourite city to arbitrate in?
London, because it’s the greatest city in the world. Paris, second, but on the assumption that counsel gets to stay at the Georges V. Stockholm in the summer is also great fun.
What’s your favourite restaurant?
Chez Bruce, in Wandsworth Common, London. Deng’s beachside diner in Phuket comes a close second on the basis that you can eat on the beach for a fiver and don’t have to wear shoes.