Eduardo Silva Romero “perfectly understands how to best strategise his arguments at hearings as both counsel and arbitrator”, says one commentator. He specialises in disputes involving states and state-owned entities in the construction, mining, oil and gas, and electricity sectors.
Professor Silva Romero focuses his practice on arbitration matters, particularly disputes involving states and state entities. Former deputy secretary general of the ICC International Court of Arbitration, he has participated in numerous proceedings before arbitration panels worldwide, including the ICC, ICSID, PCA, AAA and the SCC. As an arbitrator, Mr Silva Romero has acted in more than 100 arbitrations. He teaches at the Paris Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po) and the University of Paris-Dauphine (Paris IX), and is emeritus professor at the University of Rosario’s Law School in Bogota.
What inspired you to pursue a legal career?
It may be that I do not like injustice and always preferred to follow a career in which I could work in a team of intelligent, diverse people. It is also a family tradition.
What do you enjoy most about your role as co-chair of Dechert’s international arbitration practice?
Apart from the challenging work and the satisfaction of getting results for our clients, I really enjoy seeing our team grow and develop. I like being a facilitator for the members of the team to attain their collective and individual objectives. Arif Ali and I have spent years building our team, which includes lawyers in Paris; Washington, DC; London; Brussels; New York; Philadelphia; Dubai; Beijing; and Singapore. We are very focused on building a community of diverse lawyers who reflect the world we operate in. I also get a lot of satisfaction from seeing younger lawyers come through the ranks and achieve great things.
Your practice spans a range of sectors, from energy to telecoms – to what extent is sector-specific knowledge on the part of the arbitrator important when handling commercial disputes?
It is true that having sector expertise gives you confidence, and it enables you to quickly grasp the technical aspects of a dispute. However, there are pitfalls if you are too focused in one industry. Working across lots of different sectors gives you a broad base of experience. Markets shift over time, and businesses require different skills at different times in the economic cycle. Working in different areas also gives you transferable experience, and insights into potential solutions that you may not otherwise have had.
What qualities make for an effective advocate in contentious proceedings?
Preparation for all the potential angles and eventualities is the single most important thing. You have to be flexible and ready to adapt your strategy. When you get to the stage of tribunal advocacy, unpredictable things can happen so you need to prepare by thinking through all the avenues and having your responses ready. There are also the usual qualities that are necessary to be a successful arbitration specialist; you need to be able to master complex fact patterns, know the law and understand who your arbitrators are. The best advocates also bring their own personality to the table, and an air of calmness to any situation. Honesty is very unfortunately a quality that needs to be stressed nowadays.
What are the greatest challenges currently facing arbitration practitioners?
It may be the stance that some states are adopting towards international arbitration, especially investment arbitration. This challenge has always existed, though. The fact that the state is, at the same time, a very important user of the arbitration system and its main, necessary promoter will always be a source of challenges.
How does your role as a professor enhance your work in private practice?
Arbitration is quite an academic specialism, arguably more so than many other areas of law, so holding an academic post as an arbitration lawyer makes sense in many ways. It enables you to take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and see the global trends that are emerging in arbitration. I really enjoy that side of it. I also get to teach, and share my experience, which is a very satisfying part of being a more senior practitioner.
In your opinion, where does the future of investment arbitration lie?
The system needs and will see several adjustments. ICSID is currently revising its Arbitration Rules. UNCITRAL is studying how the investment arbitration system can be improved. It may be that, in the future, part of the system will be replaced by a European investment court, and part will continue to be the same with the addition of an appellate investment court.
What advice would you give to a lawyer looking to specialise in international arbitration?
Arbitration is highly internationalised, so an interest in global culture and languages is an essential starting point for anyone who wants to develop a career in arbitration. You also need to enjoy learning about business, keep up to date with politics, and invest time in understanding how the law is a business as much as a theoretical exercise. You also have to work hard! It becomes a way of life, but I would not change that for anything.