GAR 100 - 7th Edition

Berwin Leighton Paisner

Professional notice

The London firm is acting for Pakistan in a new ICSID dispute

Pending cases as counsel:
Value of pending counsel work:
US$9.5 billion
Treaty cases:
Current arbitrator appointments:
37 (of which 20 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:

Berwin Leighton Paisner was formed from the merger of Berwin Leighton with Paisner & Co in 2001, and within five years came to be regarded as one of the London market’s success stories. It doubled its turnover during that period and became famous for its strength in the commercial real estate sector.

The merged firm established an international arbitration practice led by Michael Polonsky with a construction disputes slant. Initially, the team was supplemented by members of the firm’s construction group and later by members of a Russian firm that was absorbed in 2009.

That year, the firm also laterally recruited Nic Fletcher from Clifford Chance, who had worked under John Beechey (now chair of the ICC International Court of Arbitration). His arrival increased the practice’s momentum and attracted new clients.
Among his other credentials, Fletcher is a member of the ICC’s standing task force on the New York Convention and a member of the executive committee of the Foundation for International Arbitration Advocacy.

The practice has also added lawyers at the younger level. Among them is Amir Ghaffari, who joined from Emmanuel Gaillard’s team at Shearman & Sterling in Paris and is co-chair of the LCIA’s Young International Arbitration Group. Ghaffari was promoted to partner in 2012.

The firm hired Kent Phillips, a former partner at Addleshaw Goddard, in late 2011, who joined fresh from the Abramovich v Berezkovsky litigation in the English High Court. Phillips, who was an India jurisdiction partner at Addleshaw Goddard, has since launched the firm’s arbitration practice in Singapore.

Soon afterwards, Stuart Isaacs QC joined the firm as head of advocacy from South Square Chambers in London. Isaacs has further boosted the Asia practice as the first QC to be authorised by the Singapore attorney general to practise as a foreign lawyer in the city state. He also helps develop advocacy skills among the firm’s disputes lawyer and sits regularly as an arbitrator.

Another name to know is Roman Khodykin, a Russian national who joined the London office in 2012 after seven years at Clifford Chance in Moscow. He brings expertise in Russia and CIS-related disputes.


The international arbitration practice is headed by Fletcher in the London office, where most of the arbitration specialists are based. There is also a team in Moscow (operating as Goltsblat BLP) led by Elena Trusova; and in Abu Dhabi, led by Caroline Pope. A newer Singapore practice is led by Kent Phillips. BLP has had an office there since 2007 with a focus on natural resources.

The firm has in recent years opened offices in Hong Kong, Germany and Dubai. It also has an office in Paris.

Who uses it?

Berwin has an excellent list of international clients, including Balfour Beatty, Canary Wharf, Chartis, Lloyds, National Grid, Qatari Diar, Tesco, Shell and UBS. Since Fletcher’s arrival, the arbitration team has handled several matters for project companies of AES, the US-based power company. That led to further instructions in the energy-related disputes, including from the state of Lagos in Nigeria when it faced a claim by Enron Nigeria.

In 2012, the team secured a big win for South African financial institution Nedbank against the government of Gabon. It has also received a number of instructions from Scottish Power, the UK subsidiary of Spanish oil and gas company Iberdrola, including in a £20 million price adjustment dispute over a natural gas supply contract.

KBR and Italy’s Snamprogetti have instructed the group on international engineering disputes under English and other governing laws; and the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago has retained it to advise on developing claims arising out of the collapse of a major Caribbean insurer.

Other clients include the Trinidad Water Authority, Qatar Electricity and Water Company, Vinchi subsidiary Soletanche Bachy, Hellenic Petroleum and a London rail link.

Track record

The new and improved BLP arbitration group has already distinguished itself with some good results.

In 2012, the firm successfully took on the government of Gabon – not only securing a win for Nedbank, but also helping to enforce a £25 million LCIA award in favour of a South African construction company that was assigned to BLP’s Mauritian client. The proceedings involved grappling with state immunity issues as well as the legitimacy of the assignment. Full payment has been secured.

A team in Moscow also successfully represented ING bank in a three-year MKAS claim to recover US$35 million against a Forbes List-featured Russian oligarch – and also secured interest of US$860,000.

In a London-seated LCIA arbitration, for example, partner Michael Polonsky persuaded Hilary Heilbron QC, sitting as sole arbitrator, to end a dispute between joint venture partners in a gold mine operation in Kyrgyzstan because of lack of jurisdiction. The claim was for more than US$16 million and the outcome crucial to the client’s survival.

Meanwhile, Fletcher successfully represented BNP Paribas in a dispute with a US multinational over breaches of warranty arising from the sale of a European vehicle leasing business. The claim was for US$400 million and involved 65 separate accounting claims, as well as allegations of fraud. The firm reports that it resulted in an almost unprecedented six-week hearing.

Recent events

In March 2013, the firm’s London office welcomed former Fenwick Elliott partner David Robertson to help the firm build its practice in Asia. Specialising in construction and energy disputes, Roberston has previously advised Turkey on disputes of up to US$200 million arising out of the construction and operation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan crude oil pipeline, located near the Caspian Sea.

In recent investment treaty arbitration developments, Pakistan has retained the firm in its ICSID dispute with Turkish electricity services provider Karkey Karadeniz over the state’s detention of four vessels. The team is being led by Michael Polonsky. Arnold & Porter are representing the claimant in that dispute.

The firm is also acting for Soletanche Bachy, a subsidiary of the Vinci Group in a dispute under a joint venture agreement concerning the development of the container terminal in Aqaba, Jordan. The claim, valued at US$70 million, is subject to a tiered dispute resolution clause, which includes ICC arbitration. Partners Bob Maynard and Amir Ghaffari are leading the team handling the dispute.

The past year also saw BLP issue another arbitration survey, this time focused on document production. It found that, despite frequent and widespread use, document production often adds delay and costs to arbitral proceedings but the problem may lie in the process’s management rather than in the process itself. Previous BLP surveys have looked at delay and perceptions surrounding the use of barristers in international arbitration.

Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP is a full service law firm with over 830 lawyers, including more than 150 lawyers specialising in litigation and arbitration. We have offices in London, Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Berlin, Brussels, Dubai, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Moscow, Paris and Singapore.

Our International Arbitration team boasts recognised specialists who routinely advise multi-national corporations, private individuals and governments in the conduct of their disputes. We have considerable experience not just in the conduct of international arbitrations (across numerous sectors, geographies and jurisdictions) but we also take pride in giving specialist advice on the full range of important legal and tactical issues that arise before, during and after the proceedings.

We have considerable experience in handling large international arbitrations involving parties from jurisdictions all over the world, conducted under a variety of institutional and ad hoc rules. In recent years our lawyers have handled disputes under the International Centre for Settlement and Investment Disputes (ICSID), the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague (PCA), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce (SCC), the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) and the American Arbitration Association (AAA). We have conducted arbitrations in many different jurisdictions including London, Geneva, Paris, Stockholm, Moscow and Eastern Europe, Dubai, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul and the Americas (including various US States). We have specialists in arbitration law/procedure, in conflict of laws and jurisdictional issues.

Key contact:


Nicholas Fletcher QC

Partner, Head of International Arbitration

Email: [email protected]



Unlock unlimited access to all Global Arbitration Review content