Jean-Christophe Honlet is a partner in Dentons’ Paris office and global head of the firm’s international arbitration group. Over the past 20 years, Jean-Christophe has been involved in numerous international arbitrations, both commercial and under bilateral investment treaties, spanning a number of applicable laws and industry sectors, including energy, mining, international construction, real estate, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, telecommunications, media, automotive, aerospace, private equity and banking.
DESCRIBE YOUR CAREER TO DATE
I started as an associate at Salans in Paris, where I was fortunate to have Carl Salans as a mentor and subsequently spent a year at the Salans New York office. I made partner at the firm and subsequently became co-head of the Salans international arbitration group. I am now a partner and global head of international arbitration at Dentons.
WHAT DOES YOUR CASELOAD CONSIST OF?
Approximately two-thirds of counsel work and one-third of arbitrator work. The mix between commercial and investment treaty arbitrations varies in any given year but it has been approximately 50-50 on average over the past few years. I also occasionally act as expert witness on points of law before an arbitral tribunal or a domestic court. I am currently involved, for instance, as expert witness before the High Court in London on matters of French international arbitration law. I deal with cases in a broad variety of business sectors, including energy, international construction, mining, defence, real estate, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, telecommunications, media, automotive, aerospace, private equity and banking.
WHAT DO YOU VALUE AS COUNSEL?
Attention to the facts first. A truly good case may – and should – be won on the facts. Once the facts and the law are in place, clarity and concision in written and oral advocacy should be the lodestar of any counsel.
WHAT DO YOU VALUE IN AN ARBITRATOR AND WHAT VALUES ARE YOU TRYING TO PROMOTE WHEN ACTING AS ARBITRATOR?
Good judgement and predictability. Good judgement is what most arbitrators aspire to and that many succeed in delivering. It has a variety of facets, including properly understanding the facts and the parties’ businesses as well as open-mindedness. It also takes respect for counsel work. No matter how hard an arbitrator works on a case, he will rarely understand the case as well as counsel for the parties do. It is for this reason that I generally do not like counsel to be interrupted in cross-examination. I prefer to keep questions until after this is done. Good judgement in terms of interpersonal relations within the tribunal is equally important. Predictability, which is part and parcel of good judgement, is just as important, although sometimes undervalued. Parties to an arbitration, or about to start an arbitration, should ideally be able to predict with a relatively good degree of certainty the outcome of a case regardless of the composition of the tribunal. We know that this is not always possible, sometimes for good reasons, because the case is factually or legally uncertain, and sometimes for bad reasons, because of the perception that arbitrators’ personal preferences will kick in over and above what the parties envisaged in their contract or treaty. Predictability also has to do with reasonably quickly delivering awards.
DO YOU FAVOUR EXTENSIVE DISCOVERY IN ARBITRATION?
I generally do not, at least not to the level found in certain domestic systems, recognising that this may be case-specific. For instance, if the arbitration clause provides for extensive discovery, there is no reason not to apply the agreement of the parties.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIRD-PARTY FUNDING?
Third-party funding plays an increasing role in international arbitration. It can be a useful tool to finance certain legitimate litigations or arbitrations which otherwise may not have seen the light of day. The ICCA-Queen Mary Task Force on Third-Party Funding in international arbitration, in which I participated, produced a balanced report on these evolving questions. In any event, that a case is funded by a third-party should never affect the outcome on the merits.
Jean-Christophe Honlet is highly respected among peers who commend his "wide-ranging knowledge of investment treaty cases".
Jean-Christophe Honlet is a partner in Dentons’ Paris office and global head of the firm’s international arbitration group. He acts as counsel, expert witness and arbitrator.
Over the past 20 years, Jean-Christophe has been involved in numerous international arbitrations, both commercial and under bilateral investment treaties, spanning a number of applicable laws and industry sectors, including energy, mining, international construction, real estate, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, telecommunications, media, automotive, aerospace, private equity and banking. He has represented public and private companies, individuals, sovereign states and state entities. He is also active in dispute board proceedings and arbitration-related litigation, including actions to set aside arbitral awards and enforcement actions.
Jean-Christophe is a member of the Paris Bar. He graduated from ESSEC Business School (MBA) and the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne. He held a Lavoisier scholarship at the Maison Française, University of Oxford. He is a member of many professional associations, including the ICC commission on arbitration, the French committee on arbitration and the International Arbitration Institute. He has been a lecturer on international arbitration at the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées/University of Paris Ouest (Paris X) since 2002.
He is fluent in English and French and has some knowledge of Spanish.