George A Bermann
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Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Arbitration

George Bermann is a long-time actor in international arbitration, in both academic and practitioner capacities, among them as international arbitrator and expert. He directs Columbia’s Center for International Commercial and Investment Arbitration. George was founding member of the ICC Court of Arbitration’s governing board. He chairs the New York International Arbitration Center’s international advisory board, directs the American Arbitration Association, and serves as chief reporter of the Restatement of the US Law of International Commercial Arbitration.

Why did you decide to pursue a career outside of private practice?

I valued the independence and freedom to determine my own professional agenda that the academic world offers. I am convinced that just as practising international arbitration has enhanced my performance as a scholar, my experience as scholar has enhanced my performance as international arbitrator.

You have been a part of Columbia Law School’s faculty for over 40 years now. What do you enjoy most about it?

Teaching and writing. Although I have taught in many fields – including international contracts, world trade, EU law and administrative law – it is international arbitration that thrills me most. I am privileged to teach at a school that attracts the best LLM students. They enhance the classroom enormously and they have served over the years as my most talented and valued research assistants.

What skills make a successful arbitrator?

Listening and reading attentively; willingness to immerse yourself in unfamiliar fields of activity in which the cases arise; constant good judgement and cogent reasoning; communication skills in both the hearing room and deliberations; an ability to earn the confidence and trust of your co-arbitrators; and the ability to explain the paths of reasoning that led to your result.

What advice would you give to young lawyers looking to sit as arbitrators in the future?

Arbitration, and particularly international arbitration, is concentrated in a relatively small number of firms. It is at those firms that young lawyers stand the best chance of learning the practice of international arbitration from their elders. I advise students not to overlook the firms that, while not yet giant in the field, are demonstrably intent on developing those practices.

To what extent is arbitration a well-respected form of dispute resolution in the US when compared to litigation and mediation?

I believe that, in the international field, arbitration is, with few exceptions, delivering on its promise. That is certainly the case concerning, for example, neutrality, expertise and confidentiality. The aspects of international arbitration that have not delivered their promise as fully – speed, economy and informality – are at least getting unprecedented attention by professional institutions and associations.

How has the international arbitration landscape changed and developed since you first began your career?

International arbitration was scarcely practised 40 years ago. Now we see the unprecedented popularity of international arbitration among young lawyers who outnumber the opportunities. We also see the advent of investor-state arbitration.

Given the recent discussions over the lack of openness and opaque nature of arbitral cases, particularly investor-state arbitrations, what can or should be done to ensure greater transparency in the field? 

The ready, public availability of awards; and the full availability of the record in these cases, subject to legitimate protection of business and trade secrets and other forms of confidentiality and privilege.

What has been your proudest moment in practice?

I once sat on a tribunal chaired by an individual who, while having no objective conflict of interest, struck me as uneven-handed and even biased against one of the parties. When we arrived in deliberation at the merits, I made every effort to ensure that that bias did not produce the result that it easily could have. The integrity of arbitral awards is of the essence and I was pleased to have been able to promote that value.


Who's Who Legal Arbitration: Lawyers

George A Bermann is professor of law at Columbia Law School, teaching international commercial and investment arbitration, transnational litigation, EU law, and comparative law. He directs Columbia’s Center for International Commercial and Investment Arbitration (CICIA).

He is professeur affilié at the Law School of Sciences Po in Paris, and teaches regularly in the MIDS programme in Geneva and at Georgetown Law Center.

Bermann is an experienced international arbitrator, in both commercial and investor-state cases, in both institutional and ad hoc arbitrations, and both as party-appointed and chair. He frequently serves as counsel and expert witness in litigation and arbitration alike.

He earned BA and JD degrees from Yale University and a masters in law from Columbia. Following several years of law practice in New York with Davis Polk & Wardwell, he entered into law teaching, legal scholarship and arbitration practice.

Bermann is co-chair of the board of advisors of the New York International Arbitration Center (NYIAC), founding member of the governing board of the ICC Court of International Arbitration, co-author with Emmanuel Gaillard of the UNCITRAL Guide to the New York Convention, and chief reporter of the American Law Institute’s Restatement on the US Law of International Commercial Arbitration. He is co-editor-in-chief with Rob Smit of the American Review of International Arbitration and chair of the executive editorial board of the Columbia Journal of European Law. He is widely published through books and articles on international dispute resolution (including arbitration), private international law and EU law.

Bermann arbitrates in English and French, and in the full range of international disputes.

WWL says: George Bermann is "one of the big names" in the US market and is widely considered to be an "excellent arbitrator" by impressed sources.‚Äč

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Arbitration which can be purchased from our Shop.

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