Janet Walker is a leading light in international arbitration, renowned for her expert handling of an array of high-value disputes from construction to M&A.
Janet Walker is an independent arbitrator based in London, Toronto and Sydney. She has served in ICC, HKIAC, ICDR, DIAC, SIAC and ad hoc arbitrations in a variety of seats. Her matters cover a range of industries including construction, heavy equipment, M&A, shareholder, distribution, intellectual property, environment, finance and employment. She is professor of law at Osgoode Hall Law School and author of Canadian Conflict of Laws, cited in more than 350 judgments.
How have your aspirations as chair in international arbitrations evolved in recent years?
I have always aimed to provide the parties with a process that meets the needs of their case, and my understanding of this goal has advanced with each new case. With more experience of the available techniques for proactive case management I have found co-arbitrators and counsel more receptive, and this has produced real benefits for the parties.
How have you adapted your practice to the new normal?
It is remarkable how rapidly and effectively the international arbitration community has adapted to virtual meetings and hearings. A well-functioning video suite has supported a smooth transition for me to the online environment, and I am optimistic the new platforms will increase the range of options available for procedural meetings and hearings in the years ahead.
As chair-elect of ICC Canada, what are your main aims for the organisation?
As with every arbitral organisation in the time ahead, ICC Canada will need to meet the changing demands and opportunities of the new normal. I look forward to working with colleagues in the two years of my term to find imaginative ways for our members to engage with one another and develop their experience in international arbitration.
Tell us about CanArbWeek.
CanArbWeek is the Canadian version of the many arbitration weeks around the world – a week when leading Canadian arbitration organisations hold their annual conferences and others join with programmes of their own. At the start of the year, we targeted autumn 2020 for our first annual event, and I am delighted to say that we will now be holding a series of online discussions and webinars as scheduled in late September. We look forward to welcoming old and new friends to our virtual programmes and to continuing the event in person in the years ahead.
What trends do you see ahead for the leading arbitral institutions?
The leading institutions have an important leadership role to play in supporting arbitration practitioners in the time ahead as their staff and their processes adjust to new ways of working. The best institutions will provide a focal point for ingenuity and thought leadership on the use of online platforms to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the arbitral process.
And what of the leading hearing centres?
The leading centres will have a major impact on the choice of the seat, potentially de-coupling the assessment of the merits of the curial law and the local judiciary from the pros and cons of possible venues for the main hearing. The potential for regular use of virtual and hybrid arbitrations will mean that discussions of venue will focus on platforms and hosting more than they will transportation and accommodation.
What steps can younger arbitration practitioners take to improve their chances of advancement? Is there an important role to play here for experienced lawyers?
The new normal has thrown up a whole new set of possibilities for younger practitioners. I am seeing a much greater willingness in counsel teams to share the advocacy opportunities. This will surely help young advocates to hone their skills and build their confidence. Experienced advocates and arbitrators have a critical role to play in encouraging this trend.
Janet Walker is hailed “a very strong arbitrator” who ranks highly among peers thanks to her impressive experience as sole arbitrator, co-arbitrator and chair.
Janet Walker, CD, BA(Hons) MA, JD, DPhil (Oxon), is a chartered arbitrator based at Int-Arb Arbitrators, London; at Arbitration Place, Toronto; and at Sydney Arbitration Chambers. She is professor of law and past associate dean of Osgoode Hall Law School, a member of the Ontario Bar, and a licenced legal consultant of the New York State Bar.
Janet has served as sole, presiding, and co-arbitrator in ICC, HKIAC, ICDR, DIAC, KCAB, SIAC and in ad hoc arbitrations in a variety of seats. Her matters cover fields such as construction, heavy equipment, M&A, shareholder, distribution, intellectual property, environmental, finance and employment. She is a member of the panels of AIAC, ACICA, BVI, CIETAC, HKIAC, ICDR, KCAB, Shanghai, Shenzhen, SIAC and Ukraine, and she has a good working knowledge of Spanish and French.
Janet is vice chair of ICC Canada and has been a member since 2001. She is a founding member of the Toronto Commercial Arbitration Society (formerly Arbitration Roundtable of Toronto), the CIArb Canadian Branch (formerly founding chair of the Toronto Chapter), Young Canadian Arbitration Practitioners (founding adviser) and ArbitralWomen; and she is a member of the LCIA, IBA, ICCA and the Worshipful Company of Arbitrators. She is recipient of the CIArb Canada Award for Distinguished Service.
For 20 years, Janet has authored Canada’s main text on private international law, Canadian Conflict of Laws, and she is general editor of works on civil litigation and complex litigation. She was adviser (common law) to Canada’s Federal Courts committee (2006–2015) and CIArb academic adviser (2014–2015).
For more than 20 years, Janet served as consultant and expert witness in cross-border and complex litigation, and in law reform working groups for the American Law Institute, ABA, IBA and the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, including its international arbitration legislation project. She advocated successfully for the adoption of the 2006 Model Law in Ontario, and was a member of the executive organising committee of ICCA 2018 Sydney.
Janet served four years as co-director of the CIArb Oxford Diploma course, and currently teaches in the Stuttgart Masters in Construction Law programme. She is International Association of Procedural Law secretary general, ILA Canada past president, and she coached the Osgoode Vis Team (2001–2014), including in the year that they prevailed in Vienna. Janet was Leverhulme professor at University College, Oxford; Hauser global law professor at NYU and NYU/NUS in Singapore; and visiting professor at universities in Tunisia (2001–2014) and in Australia, Israel, Italy, Croatia and China. She is a member of the Max Plank Institute Luxembourg scientific advisory committee.
Since 2010, Janet had been recognised in leading indexes, including Who’s Who Legal (Canada and Thought Leaders), Chambers and Partners and Best Lawyers. Leading members of the international arbitration community have said: “I know well the talents that mark a first-rate arbitrator. Professor Walker possesses them all”, “Janet is held in very high regard by the International Arbitration Community as a preeminent arbitration practitioner and scholar,” and “Professor Walker was responsive to the parties' queries and submissions at all times, diligently conducted the proceedings through carefully crafted procedural decisions and spearheaded the issuance of an award which ultimately led to an efficient resolution of the parties' dispute”.