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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

Peers and clients say

"She is a very active figure in the Asia-Pacific arbitration scene"
"Chiann is coming into her own with an established list of cases as neutral"
"She is a very sharp, excellent up-and-coming arbitrator"
"She is a leading light in the Hong Kong market"
"Chiann is academic and highly experienced in international commercial arbitration"

Questions & Answers

Chiann Bao is an independent arbitrator and a member of Arbitration Chambers with offices in New York, London and Hong Kong. Dual-qualified in New York and Hong Kong, she has acted as arbitrator or counsel in numerous international arbitrations, seated in common law and civil law jurisdictions in a wide variety of sectors. Ms Bao is a vice president of the ICC Court, chair of the ICC Commission task force on ADR and arbitration, and former secretary-general of the HKIAC. She is also a vice-chair of the IBA’s International Arbitration Committee and an honorary senior fellow of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.

What did you find most challenging about entering arbitration practice?

The greatest challenge for me in entering arbitration practice was finding that door in. Once I was introduced to arbitration, I knew I wanted to make a career of it. Without any natural “ins,” I quickly learned that I had to find that door and then create my own path. 

What do you enjoy most about acting as an arbitrator?

I enjoy the puzzle-solving aspects of disputes, as well as engaging with tribunal members from different backgrounds, good advocacy and case management design. 

To what extent has covid-19 had an impact on commercial arbitration? Are parties willing to be flexible in procedure approach to get it over the line?

The silver lining to the coronavirus pandemic is that it has triggered a paradigm shift in the way we conduct arbitrations. Virtual hearings (which work very well, in some ways better than a physical in-person hearing) aside, parties and arbitrators alike are no longer deterred by time or cost in incorporating regular case management conferences to address contentious procedural matters or simply remain engaged in the proceedings throughout the life of the arbitration.

Have the skills needed to be an effective arbitrator substantially changed in light of covid-19?

In some ways, the skills needed to be an effective arbitrator haven’t changed. Fundamental to being an effective arbitrator is the ability to ensure a fair process and manage unexpected circumstances that may arise during the course of the proceedings. Post-pandemic, such skills will be all the more important and there will be a greater demand from clients and counsel alike for active case management. The additional dimension that technology brings to the arbitral process will necessarily require retooling for the arbitrators to utilise the many innovations available where appropriate. In addition, to the extent that the two-dimensional world is here to stay in some shape or form, arbitrators will need to be more attuned to the dynamics of the parties and counsel on screen and be able to read micro-expressions in order to ensure effective communication between counsel and between counsel and arbitrators.  

You have occupied many roles in arbitration, including arbitrator, institution head, counsel, and within academia. How does having a broad range of experience enhance your work in private practice? 

The many hats I have worn in international arbitration provide me with a unique perspective as to the various skills necessary to be an effective arbitrator. Understanding case strategy, intent behind institutional rules (and consequent implementation of case administration) and knowing peer arbitrators (from different vantage points) help me anticipate and possibly pre-empt any potential issues that might arise during an arbitration where I am sitting as arbitrator. Meanwhile, teaching and other academic work offers me the space to deep dive into topics and think more cerebrally about certain issues that I might not be able to engage in in practice.

You have lived in many major arbitral jurisdictions – how does this impact your approach to international arbitration proceedings?

Having lived in London, Paris, New York, Hong Kong and now Singapore, I have a deep appreciation as to how local bars can influence international arbitration. In this way and despite the reputation international arbitration enjoys in serving the global business community, I think it is important to acknowledge that international arbitration is only as international as its counsel and arbitrators. Cognisant of the potentially different expectations that counsel and my co-arbitrators might have on the arbitral process, I am particularly sensitive to striking the right balance of neutrality and empathy when conducting arbitrations. 

If you could implement one reform in international arbitration, what would it be?

Elimination of unconscious bias. And word limits.

What advice would you give to those considering a path as a full-time independent arbitrator?

With the deep bench of excellent independent arbitrators in the community now, it is important to regularly reflect on the quality of the service you render and how you can continue to improve. Take time to find your balance between accepting whatever opportunities are handed to you and taking deliberate steps towards being the kind of arbitrator you wish to be.

Global Leader

Arbitration 2021

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

Peers and clients say

"She is a very active figure in the Asia-Pacific arbitration scene"
"Chiann is coming into her own with an established list of cases as neutral"
"She is a very sharp, excellent up-and-coming arbitrator"
"She is a leading light in the Hong Kong market"
"Chiann is academic and highly experienced in international commercial arbitration"

Biography

With almost 20 years of experience working in Singapore, Hong Kong, New York and London, Chiann Bao practises exclusively as an arbitrator and mediator and is a member of Arbitration Chambers. Chiann is listed on the panel of the major arbitration institutions and has served as tribunal chair, co-arbitrator and sole arbitrator in ad hoc and institutional arbitrations under the ICC, UNCITRAL, SIAC, HKIAC, KCAB, CIETAC, and SCIA rules. She also serves as emergency arbitrator. She is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a CEDR-accredited mediator.

Prior to becoming an independent arbitrator and mediator, Chiann worked in private practice where she focused on complex international arbitration and litigation, acting as counsel for corporates, state-owned enterprises and states in a range of disputes in various sectors. Chiann has served as counsel in cases involving intellectual property, licensing, shareholder agreements, joint venture agreements, real estate projects, financial services agreements, infrastructure projects, and other contractual disputes. 

Chiann currently serves as a vice president of the ICC Court of Arbitration and is the chair of the ICC Commission task force on arbitration and ADR. She is also a member of the ICC Belt and Road Initiative Commission. From 2010 to 2016 she served as the secretary general of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre where she managed hundreds of arbitrations before tribunals in Asia. She is also a Vice Chair of the IBA’s International Arbitration Committee.

Chiann regularly speaks, writes and teaches on international arbitration. Chiann is an honorary senior fellow of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.

Features by Chiann Bao

Arbitration Future Leaders 2018: Women in Law Roundtable Discussion

Arbitration Future Leaders 2018: Women in Law Roundtable Discussion

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