Grant Hanessian is singled out for his considerable experience acting as counsel and arbitrator in contractual, investment treaty, construction and financial services disputes.
Grant Hanessian is a partner in the New York office of Baker McKenzie. He acts as counsel and arbitrator in disputes concerning investment, energy, construction, financial services, intellectual property and other matters. He is a US member of the ICC Court of Arbitration, chair of the USCIB/ICC USA arbitration committee (ICC US national committee), vice chair of LCIA’s North American Users’ Counsel, member of ICDR-AAA’s international advisory council, and founding board member of the New York International Arbitration Center.
What do you enjoy most about working in international arbitration?
Working on cases involving different businesses with people from different legal cultures is endlessly interesting. There are always new things to learn.
How has the practice of arbitration evolved since you first began your career?
Thirty years ago there was little international commercial arbitration outside of Western Europe and North America. In the 1990s, states in Latin America, Eastern Europe/CIS and Asia opened their economies to foreign investment, reconsidered their long-standing opposition to international arbitration and passed modern international arbitration laws, allowing arbitration to flourish as the preferred method of dispute resolution for international business. The growth of international commercial arbitration in Latin America is especially remarkable – particularly in Brazil, which did not become a state party to the New York Convention until 2002.
Investor-state arbitration has also grown enormously during this period. Some of the critiques of investor-state dispute settlement, particularly regarding issues of “legitimacy”, are spilling over to commercial cases involving industries with substantial societal and environmental impact (eg, extractive industries, pharma). The arbitral institutions are attentive to these concerns: there is significant movement towards more transparency in both investor-state and commercial arbitration, and increased efforts to improve panel representation of those historically under-represented in the field. These initiatives will have value even if states limit treaty arbitration – parties to international contracts will always want an alternative to submitting their disputes to the national courts of their counterparties.
If you could implement one reform in international arbitration, what would it be?
International arbitration must become more efficient, particularly in complex cases. The arbitral institutions are working on the efficiency problem – broadening application of expedited procedure rules, which can work well even in larger cases; not every case requires extensive submissions and hundreds of exhibits. In the most complex cases, as my partner Joerg Risse has recently written, it is unlikely that all, or perhaps even most, arbitrators (many working full-time as counsel and academics) are reading, understanding and evaluating the many thousands of pages of argument and exhibits submitted to them. As with many difficult problems, the first step is to acknowledge that the problem exists.
What impact will technological innovation have on the practice of arbitration in the next five to 10 years?
As I write this in May 2020, the world is on lockdown due to the covid-19 pandemic and the international arbitration community has turned to videoconferencing for meetings and hearings. I do think videoconferencing will continue to be used when travel restrictions are lifted – particularly for procedural hearings and arguments. Videoconferencing requires a different style of advocacy, and is likely to result in considerable efficiencies.
We are only beginning to understand the potential impact of artificial intelligence on arbitration; the next 10 years will certainly see many counsel use AI to predict results, choose arbitrators and shape arguments.
You are greatly involved in writing articles and speaking at conferences on dispute resolution topics. To what extent has this influenced your private practice?
I worked as a journalist before becoming a lawyer and I still find that the best way for me to think through a problem is to write about it. Writing can be time-consuming and difficult – I subscribe to the view that anyone who says that writing is easy is either lying or isn’t very good at it – but it is worth the effort.
As to conferences, I am reminded that a former partner once said to me that the practice of international arbitration seemed to consist of going to conferences. It is fair to say that not every international arbitration conference is essential, but conferences remain a wonderful way to meet people, build on existing relationships and learn other perspectives.
What role do you see third-party funding playing in arbitration moving forward?
Third-party funding is established and expanding. We seem to have reached a consensus that the existence and identity of a funder should be disclosed. However, there remains the issue of whether a claimant should be required to post security for the respondent’s costs of arbitration where its funder has not agreed to pay an adverse cost award, and the claimant is unable to pay.
What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received?
Here are two, which I try to apply every day. From a basketball coach: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” From Strunk and White’s Elements of Style: “Omit needless words.”
"He is a very strong advocate"
"I have worked closely with him and the experience was terrific"
"He is a thought leader through his writings and his presentations"
Grant Hanessian is a partner in the New York office of Baker McKenzie. He has more than 30 years’ experience as counsel and arbitrator in disputes concerning investment, construction/engineering, energy, financial services, intellectual property and other matters. He served as global co-head of Baker McKenzie's international arbitration group from 2008–2015, head of the firm's North American international arbitration group from 2003–2018 and head of the firm’s New York office litigation department from 2001–2012.
Mr Hanessian is US member of the ICC International Court of Arbitration; chairman of the arbitration committee of ICC-USA and US vice president of the LCIA North American users’ council. He is a member of the ICC commission on arbitration; the ICC task force on financial institutions and international arbitration (co-leader of investment arbitration working group); the AAA-ICDR international advisory committee and its advisory committee on Brazil; the International Arbitration Club of New York; the Spanish Arbitration Club; and the SIAC Users Council. He is also a founding board member of the New York International Arbitration Center.
He is editor of ICDR Awards and Commentaries, Vol I (Juris, 2012) and Vol II (Juris, 2020) and co-editor of International Arbitration Checklists (third edition; Juris, 2016) and Gulf War Claims Reporter (ILI/Kluwer, 1998), and adjunct professor of law at Fordham Law School.
Mr Hanessian is recommended by Chambers Global and Chambers USA, in which he is described as “very knowledgeable and strategic in his offering of critical advice”, and an “elite lawyer” who is “very experienced, hugely knowledgeable and effective”, and "powerful advocate for clients”. The Legal 500 calls him “a great practitioner” with a “strong commercial profile”. He is also recommended by PLC’s Which Lawyer?, WWL: Arbitration and the Expert Guide to Leading Practitioners in International Arbitration (which rates him as the “best of the best” in international commercial arbitration).