Emerging Jurisdictions

Ma. Angelica M. Liboon - Anti-Fraud Legal Officer, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation; Head of Legal and Corporate Compliance, Camp Cast Foundation

On 14 August 2020, Young ICCA organised a webinar on “Emerging Jurisdictions” in international arbitration. The webinar engaged the expertise of four seasoned international arbitration practitioners as panellists to discuss several themes relative to young practitioners based in emerging jurisdictions. In an interactive Q&A style, the panellists offered their insights on the following themes, (i) Transitioning from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, (ii) What to do to develop within an emerging jurisdiction, and (iii) Mentorship and networking between jurisdictions. Young ICCA Co-Chair Theominique D. Nottage gave a brief opening statement, and jointly with Young ICCA Events Coordinator Prince-Alex Iwu, introduced the panellists: Funke Adekoya, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Founding Partner of AELEX; Calvin Hamilton, Founding Partner, Hamilton Abogados and a member of Int-Arb Arbitrators and Mediators; Natalie Reid, Partner, Debevoise & Plimpton; and Baiju Vasani, Partner, Ivanyan & Partners. 

On the first theme “Transitioning from jurisdiction to jurisdiction”, Ms. Reid discussed the value of an LLM or JD qualification for foreign-trained lawyers who aim to practice international arbitration in multiple jurisdictions. She stressed the importance of research and cost-benefit analysis in order to assess whether the time and expense of additional qualifications would increase one’s chances of employment in multiple jurisdictions. Ms. Adekoya, on the other hand, emphasized the importance of understanding the culture of the jurisdiction in which one aims to work. Particularly, the verbal and non-verbal communication cues, accepted social practices, and graces while taking into consideration the differences in sensibilities across cultures and countries. She also suggested expanding one’s network in each jurisdiction, as it gives a practitioner an idea on what should be done, as well as how people in a certain jurisdiction behave. 

Similarly, Mr. Vasani agreed on the importance of understanding the cultural nuances between jurisdictions, especially in communication. Mr. Hamilton highlighted the challenges between civil law and common law jurisdictions which may come in the form of being accepted by, and the capacity to influence or inform, work colleagues. For example, something as mundane as the skill of telling jokes may be more useful than your knowledge of the law itself, insofar as it relates to connecting with your colleagues. He stressed the importance of finding synergies that will allow people to appreciate what you contribute as a practitioner. Mr. Hamilton concluded this point by discussing the fact that there is a merging of legal traditions and practices in international commercial law and a need to understand how it applies in an international arbitration context.

On the second theme “What to do to develop within an emerging jurisdiction”, the panellists were asked for their respective advice to young practitioners in emerging jurisdictions on how to build their careers. Ms. Adekoya strongly advised practitioners to take full advantage of the “new normal” such as publishing on LinkedIn instead of journals, being part of young practitioners’ groups, and participating in webinars as a means of raising one’s profile. Ms. Reid added that young practitioners should utilize the increased ability to access online resources which may have only been previously accessible to few groups of people in order to keep oneself abreast of current trends in international arbitration. Mr. Vasani, on the other hand, encouraged practitioners to be brave in reaching out to more seasoned practitioners. He stressed the value of having one mentor or person of similar interest, as well as the understated significance of reaching out to one’s peers. Mr. Vasani also commented that in some instances, there is a preference for people who have had litigation experience prior to careers in international arbitration. He went on to state that there are actually a number of overlapping skill sets that are required in both litigation and arbitration. Mr. Vasani also stressed the importance of honing one’s skills as a writer and speaker, encouraging participants to take every opportunity to practice and master these skills.

In terms of gaining knowledge during this time of COVID-19, Mr. Hamilton suggested reading court decisions on arbitration related matters and taking the time to write articles on issues raised in these decisions, such as those that promote an arbitration-friendly jurisdiction, on blogs or other platforms consistently enough to raise one’s international visibility. Mr. Hamilton also recommended that practitioners be aware of existing or potential businesses or sectors which deal in transactions where potential disputes may arise. Involvement with these sectors or business may provide the opportunities for your first arbitration case.

Finally, on the third theme, “Mentorship and networking”, Ms. Reid emphasized that mentoring will not replace hard work. She went on to state that it is just as important to be a team player as it is to understand the facts of each case and absorb them. Mr. Vasani added that junior lawyers should do away with hierarchical thinking. Ms. Adekoya, agreeing on the importance of having a go-getter nature, expressed her personal view that one could not be a good arbitrator without being a good litigator first. Mr. Hamilton reminded practitioners of the importance of being a team player; that a positive attitude is important for the cohesiveness of the team efforts.

Ms. Reid also emphasized the difference between having a mentor (one who will guide you) and having a sponsor (one who will speak on your behalf and put you forward). Mr. Vasani added that practitioners should not discount one’s global peers, but should harness existing relationships while rekindling the old ones.

All of the panellists agreed that domestic arbitration and litigation are good starting points if one is seeking to build a career in international arbitration. Mr. Vasani declared that it is ideal to market oneself as having experience in a previous jurisdiction - where that was the case. Ms. Reid submitted that there remains a demand for quick dispute resolution in every jurisdiction, hence, practitioners should take advantage of the domestic demand. Finally, with respect to emerging jurisdictions, Mr. Hamilton recommended that young practitioners in emerging jurisdictions, such as the Caribbean, fashion an adequate process to monitor activities in those sectors which are subject to foreign direct investments (tourism, construction, oil and gas, etc.) as many of these transactions will eventually give rise to international disputes that will be subject to arbitration.

Meet the Panelists

 ‘Funke Adekoya is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and partner and head of the arbitration practice at ǼLEX, a Lagos Nigeria based law firm with offices in Accra, Ghana. She has been in active legal practice for the past 45 years and presently focuses on acting as counsel or arbitrator in commercial and investor-state arbitrations. Her appointments have been both ad hoc and institutional under the LCIA, ICC and ICSID rules, where she has acted as sole, party appointed or chaired arbitral panels in disputes in the energy and natural resources sectors.

She is a Chartered Arbitrator of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and was a Board member of the Lagos Court of Arbitration at its inception. She is also a past Council member of the African Users Council of the London Court of International Arbitration as well as a Governing Board member and  past Vice President of both the International Council of Commercial Arbitration (ICCA) and the ICC Court of Arbitration, and is currently a member of the ICC Africa Commission. She is listed on the panel of arbitrators of the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC), the Kigali International Arbitration Centre and the Lagos Court of Arbitration. She is ranked in Chambers Global and in Who’s Who Legal Arbitration, is listed on the Chairman’s Panel of Arbitrators at ICSID and is a member of the World Bank Sanctions Board.

Calvin Hamilton is a seasoned arbitrator based in Barbados and London with 35 years of international arbitration experience, as counsel and arbitrator including his time as partner at two leading firms in Madrid. His region focus is the Caribbean, Latin America, London and the US.

Specialist areas include investor state, corporate and commercial disputes. He has a good cultural knowledge and understanding of common and civil law approaches.He is fluent in Spanish, proficient in French and has working knowledge of Portuguese. He is a dual national of Guyana and Spain and admitted in New York and Madrid.

Natalie L. Reid is a partner in the International Dispute Resolution Group and Co-Chair of Debevoise’s Caribbean Practice. Ms. Reid focuses on international arbitration, public international law, and complex commercial litigation matters. A Jamaican national, she advises and represents states, multinational corporations, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations in proceedings in U.S. courts and international fora. Ms. Reid acts as counsel in commercial and treaty arbitrations conducted under the rules of the major arbitral institutions. She serves on the Board of Editors of the American Journal of International Law, and is Co-Chair of CPR’s Y-ADR group for practitioners under 45. 

Baiju Vasani is Head of International Arbitration at the Russian law firm of Ivanyan & Partners, splitting his time between Moscow and London. He currently represents the Russian Federation in several UNCITRAL investment treaty arbitrations, as well as before the ICJ, ECHR, and UNCLOS. Prior to moving to Moscow in November 2019, he spent nearly 20 years in “US BigLaw” in the United States and England focusing exclusively on major international arbitration matters. 

Baiju is a Senior Fellow of SOAS, University of London, where he teaches ISDS, and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.  He was designated by Somalia to the ICSID panel of arbitrators, and represented the country in the ICSID rules amendment process. He has also advised Somalia in relation to its accession to the New York Convention and the World Trade Organization, and its arbitration legislation.  Baiju heads a task force working with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the Djibouti Chamber of Commerce to create an arbitration center for the Horn of Africa, and serves on the advisory board for the revision of the rules of the Arbitration Foundation of South Africa.  

He is a British and American national of Indian (via East Africa) origin.


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