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J William Rowley QC
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Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders: Arbitration

Bill Rowley has conducted over 200 international arbitrations. He is chairman of the LCIA and a member of the LCIA Court, and serves on the board LCIA India. He is chairman of the editorial board of Global Arbitration Review; general editor of GAR: The Guide to Energy Arbitrations; and founding editor of Arbitration World. He has been described as a “star performer” (Legal Business Arbitration Report 2006), one of London’s “super arbitrators” (Global Arbitration Review, May 2006) and “one of the elite international arbitrators” (The New Peacekeepers, 2005). He is today “widely acknowledged to be ‘as good as it gets’, particularly for energy disputes” (Who’s Who Legal Arbitration 2016).

What motivated your involvement in international arbitration?

As with many things in life serendipity played an important role. In this case, a call came from out of the blue from a New York “white-shoe” law firm to see if I might take over the chairmanship of a long-running case in which the former chairman had died suddenly, and most inconveniently, after a long hearing and the expenditure by the parties of millions of dollars. The fact that I had no arbitration experience seemed irrelevant. The parties called me because they both trusted the senior partner of the white-shoe law firm who had recommended me. To my surprise, I was duly appointed, picked up where the departed chairman had left off and eventually delivered an award. I enjoyed the experience enormously and I suppose the parties were not too displeased. In the event, other appointments followed.

What case most sticks in your mind and why?

It is always hard to choose between cases. The one that stands out at the moment is a very high-value energy dispute which arose in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The case is memorable not because of the sums involved (between $20 billion and $30 billion at one stage), but because of the exceptional quality of counsel appearing and the many surprises which kept the tribunal on its toes. There was also the thrill of seeing one of London’s greatest silks perform the perfect cross-examination of an expert witness. There was no delight in seeing the credibility of the expert destroyed; the pleasure was in the craftsmanship of the destruction.

How can younger lawyers looking to step up from counsel to arbitrator prepare themselves for that task?

A few decades ago arbitrators were chosen almost exclusively from the great and the good. With globalisation and the exponential growth of the arbitration field an arbitration bar has developed and teams of arbitration practitioners are found in law firms worldwide. Thus young lawyers are being trained on the job eventually to become arbitrators themselves. Their first appointments will almost certainly come on the recommendation of one of their colleagues. This suggests paying attention to one’s compatriots and exhibiting the characteristics of a potential arbitrator for the future.

Given the surge of interest in the field recently, what can practitioners do to stand out?

Young counsel must immerse themselves and watch and learn from skilled counsel. Watching and learning should be never ending. Then practise as much as possible, work like the devil and fret endlessly. While this may seem a prescription for ulcers and insomnia, with a modicum of luck and a good dose of intelligence one should, in time, stand out.

Your practice is particularly strong in relation to oil and gas disputes. Was this a conscious specialisation or a natural occurrence?

Oil and gas disputes and energy work generally forms a substantial percentage of the caseload of most institutions and in the ad hoc arena. Because my own practice, both commercial and investor-state, covers the normal range of disputes, this has put a good deal of oil and gas work my way. My role as general editor of GAR’s Guide to Energy Arbitrations may give the impression of a particular strength in this field. The reality, however, is that most experienced arbitrators with a reasonably successful practice are bound to have considerable oil and gas experience.

What effects are the advent of strong institutions in the east, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, having on your practice?

Although based out of the UK, my practice has always been worldwide. With the enormous growth of Asian economies, particularly those of China and India, more and more disputes will have an Asian dimension. This will inevitably lead to more work for the Asian institutions and in the ad hoc arena. My existing Asian casework numbers are increasing accordingly.

Discrepancies between domestic courts and arbitral centres are seen to be undermining the potency of international arbitration as an effective tool for international dispute resolution on both the investorstate and commercial side. What, in your opinion, can be done to strengthen the position of international arbitration?

Implicit in this question is (in my view) the inaccurate assumption that international arbitration is generally under attack and in potential decline. My perspective is different. Virtually every case I see involves disputants from different jurisdictions. For such parties, arbitration continues to be the overwhelming preferred method of solving disputes. And I do not buy into today’s popular proposition that globalisation has passed its zenith. This does not mean that today’s arbitrations are without fault, or that we do not need to work hard to provide a better service. More than ever, arbitrators need to manage their cases and workload, be respected for their true independence and impartiality, be known as always being fully prepared, run a good hearing and deliver their awards in a matter of months. The best arbitrators do this already.

International arbitration has always been imbued with a deep theoretical and analytical associated scholarship. What impacts does this have on the practice and its practitioners?

An aspect of scholarship is an essential component to success for any legal practitioner. In my law firm days, I inevitably encouraged those I worked with to speak, write and publish in their practice areas. To do so requires one to think hard, sometimes originally, and to create a product one can be proud of. To be asked to speak to one’s peers and to publish for them is a credentialbuilding exercise, and it is our credentials that lead to our next cases.


Who's Who Legal Arbitration: Lawyers

Bill Rowley was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1970 and subsequently in other jurisdictions. Appointed Queen's Counsel in 1983, he was elected chairman of McMillan LLP in 1996 and chairman emeritus and special counsel on his retirement from the partnership in 2009. He relinquished the latter roles in 2014. Founded in 1903, McMillan is one of Canada's leading law firms. He joined 20 Essex Street Chambers in 2002. 20 Essex Street is one of England's pre-eminent, and longest established, sets of chambers practising in the international arbitration field in both commercial and public international law. 

Born in Lindfield, Sussex, in 1943, and educated at Trinity College School; Carleton University (1961-1965); he received his LLB (magna cum laude and gold medallist) from the University of Ottawa (1965-1968), where he was editor-in-chief of the Ottawa Law Review. Prior to joining McMillan he served as a law clerk to the Supreme Court of Canada (the Hon Mr Justice Roland A Ritchie) and special assistant to the director (now commissioner) of the Canadian Competition Bureau. 

His practice at the Bar has involved all aspects of international commercial law, including competition, contracts, banking, oil industry, insurance, corporate governance and arbitration law and practice. Listed as a leading expert in international arbitration, antitrust and corporate governance in all European and North American expert guides, he is also a noted author and frequent speaker on international competition law and policy issues. He is co-author (with Donald I Baker) of Rowley & Baker, International Mergers - the Antitrust Process (third edition, Sweet & Maxwell, 2007). He is the past chairman of the International Bar Association, section on business law, as well as the past chairman of the IBA antitrust and trade committee and its global forum on competition policy. He served as a non-executive member of the board of directors of the AVIVA Group Canada Ltd from 1996-2014, a past member of the board of governors of the International Capital Markets Group and is a honorary life member and council member of the International Bar Association. 

Mr Rowley is chairman of the editorial board of Global Arbitration Review, general editor of GAR-The Guide to Energy Arbitrations and was the founding editor of Arbitration World, The European Lawyer Reference Series, (2004-2012). He is described as a "star performer" (Legal Business Arbitration Report 2006), one of London's "super arbitrators" (Global Arbitration Review, May 2006), "one of the elite international arbitrators" (The New Peacekeepers, 2005), "Exceptional", "Olympian", "no one ever leaves the chambers with a sense of injustice" (Chambers UK Guide, 2008), "a big character on the scene" (Chambers UK Guide, 2009), an "extremely strong" arbitrator and a "sensible chairman" (Chambers Arbitration (International): Most in Demand Arbitrators: Global Wide, 2013), “widely acknowledged to be ‘as good as it gets’, particularly for energy disputes.” (Who’s Who Legal: Arbitration 2016).

He has chaired or participated as a tribunal member or counsel in over 200 international and national arbitrations. These have involved a variety of national laws and investment treaty systems including those of ICSID, NAFTA, England, many European states, Abu Dhabi, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Belize, Bermuda, China, Dubai, Georgia, Grenada, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Venezuela and Canada, as well as New York, Delaware and California. In addition to multiple ICC and LCIA arbitrations, he has conducted cases under other rules such as those of UNCITRAL, the AAA, SCC, SIAC, HKIAC and a number of domestic regimes. Recent arbitrations have included petroleum industry joint ventures (Iraq oil fields, over US$20 billion; offshore Nigerian oil fields, over US$4 billion, Kuwait oil fields, over US$7 billion), gas pricing and repricing formulae (Belgium, Canada, Italy, Qatar and US), Bermuda form insurance claims (Bermuda, New York and London), international trademark licensing (Germany, Japan, US and UK), various investor and state disputes (ICSID, NAFTA and UNCITRAL), international telecoms licensing (EU, US, India and Bermuda), telecoms joint ventures (Australia, Mauritius, India, UK and US), oil supply contracts (Poland and Russia, Netherlands and Russia, and Venezuela and US, Hungary and Ukraine) production-sharing contracts and AMIs for petroleum products (Africa, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and India), aerospace defence contract disputes (US, UK and France), power supply projects (Hungary, Peru and Philippines), water and sewage services investment disputes (ICSID, Argentina and France), gasoline additives investment dispute (NAFTA, Canada and US), and telecoms investment disputes (UK and Belize). 

Elected chairman of the LCIA in 2013, he is also a member of the LCIA Court. He also serves on the board of directors of LCIA India (Pvt) Ltd. He is a member of the National Panel of Arbitrators for Canada; ICC, Paris; panel of arbitrators of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID, a member of the World Bank Group); and a former member of the advisory committee on private commercial disputes of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Further panel memberships include those of ADR Chambers International; the American Arbitration Association (ICDR Panel of Neutrals), Dublin and New York; the Arbitration Foundation of South Africa; the German Institute of Arbitration, Cologne; the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration, Malaysia; the International Arbitral Centre, Vienna; the Indian Council of Arbitration, New Delhi; the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration, Melbourne; and the Hong Kong and Singapore international arbitration centres. 

He was co-founder and a director of the Global Forum on Competition Trade Policy, London and Washington, DC; served as editor-in-chief and founder, Business Law International, London; is a current or former advisory board member of the Antitrust and Trade Regulation Report, Washington, DC, and the Competition Policy Record, Toronto; the Antitrust Report, New York; Global Competition Review, London; and The European Lawyer, London. He was antitrust editor of the Canadian Law Newsletter, Washington, DC, chairman of the editorial advisory board of International Business Lawyer, and is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation. 

He is married to the former Janet Newman. He has two children, Christopher and John. His hobbies include angling, shooting, thoroughbred racing and painting. 

Mr Rowley was not remunerated for services he occasionally provided to McMillan LLP or its clients between the time of his retirement from the firm in 2009 and the relinquishment of any connection to the firm in 2014. During that period he had no access to McMillan's information systems, and his arbitration practice was entirely independent of and firewalled from any service he may have provided to the firm.

WWL says: William Rowley continues to be regarded as one of the leading arbitrators in the world for major international disputes.

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

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