Lawrence Schaner, FCIArb, started his own practice as an independent arbitrator in 2017 after nearly 30 years at Jenner & Block, where he was a litigation partner and co-chair of the international arbitration practice. He has an AB from Duke University (1982) and a JD from Stanford Law School (1986). He is a member of the bars of California, Illinois and New York. He is an adjunct professor at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO A CAREER IN ARBITRATION?
My interest in international arbitration was sparked by my interest in meeting and working with people from different parts of the world and learning about their cultures and legal traditions. Almost everything I found fascinating and rewarding about domestic litigation was even more fascinating and rewarding in an international context.
HOW HAS THE MARKET CHANGED SINCE YOU FIRST STARTED PRACTISING?
Arbitration, and in particular international arbitration, has become much more clearly recognised as a specialty. There is a perceived, and I believe real, advantage to having matters handled by people who know how the game is played. A wider range of law firms are now involved, as well as lawyers from more parts of the world, especially Asia and Latin America. The market has also become far more competitive – not only between lawyers and law firms but also between arbitration institutions.
WHAT DO CLIENTS LOOK FOR WHEN SELECTING AN ARBITRATOR?
Picking an arbitrator is usually not a “one size fits all” exercise. Clients look for an arbitrator who is the “right fit” for the case. There are some core attributes, such as integrity, intelligence, fairness and relevant experience, that normally come into play. Clients generally want someone who will really listen and hear what they have to say, and be willing to do the work in order to be well prepared and attentive at all points in the process.
WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU FACE WHEN SETTING UP YOUR OWN FIRM?
After spending essentially my entire professional life at a large law firm, the greatest challenge was probably mostly psychological – to decide to actually make the move. Once I was over that hurdle, matters went fairly smoothly. Figuring out what kind of office set-up I needed took some time, but, in the end, I feel I chose correctly.
IN RECENT YEARS, ASIA HAS STARTED TO BECOME A THRIVING CENTRE FOR ARBITRATION. DO YOU EXPECT THIS TREND TO CONTINUE?
Yes, absolutely. I just returned from a week in Singapore. The arbitration scene is thriving. Almost half my cases have at least one Asian party. The arbitration centres across Asia have been growing, and the established institutions from other regions are investing heavily there. The world is realising that disputes rooted in Asia can be resolved in Asia; they don’t have to trek off to Western Europe or the US. Fuelling all of this is the growth in trade and Asian economies generally.
RECENTLY YOU HAVE BEEN ASKED TO SIT AS A MOCK ARBITRATOR. WHAT DOES THIS INVOLVE, AND WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS AN EMERGING TREND?
Being a mock arbitrator can involve anything from being asked to review and comment on submissions and strategy from the outset of a case through to the final hearing, to simply reading the memorials and presiding over some version of a hearing prior to the final hearing. The mock arbitrator role is similar to the jury studies long employed by US trial lawyers. The use of mock arbitrators seems to be catching on in the arbitration world because it can be an invaluable source of feedback and is relatively inexpensive compared to the overall costs of a case. The independent perspective that mock arbitrators can offer can be of significant assistance to counsel looking to test and/or refine arguments, and to counsel and clients interested in evaluating the strength of their case.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE LOOKING TO START THEIR OWN FIRM?
Allow plenty of time. The time required is substantial, especially if you have not done it before, and you will make fewer mistakes if you plan ahead. My other advice is to try to have fun. It’s a new beginning; going in with the right attitude goes a long way.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT TO DATE?
I am tempted to say figuring out how to format a table of contents in Word, but that’s probably not what the question is really after. I’m still going to duck this question. It’s not one that we Midwesterners think we should answer out loud.
Lawrence Schaner is a standout arbitration specialist in domestic and international commercial disputes.
Lawrence Schaner is the founder of Schaner Dispute Resolution. He serves as an arbitrator in international and complex commercial cases, acts as counsel in select arbitration and litigation matters, particularly those involving international issues, and advises clients regarding cross-border and domestic dispute resolution matters. In more than 30 years of practice, he has amassed broad experience with complex, high-stakes business disputes spanning many sectors and industries.
Until April 2017, Mr Schaner was a partner at Jenner & Block, in Chicago. He co-founded and co-chaired the firm’s international arbitration practice, serving as counsel in a wide range of significant international disputes. He also spent many years representing clients in US domestic litigation as a member of the firm’s renowned litigation department. Since 2010, he has taught international arbitration as an adjunct professor at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law.
Mr Schaner acts as presiding arbitrator, sole arbitrator and co-arbitrator, and has experience as an emergency arbitrator. He serves on the panels of arbitrators of many of the world’s leading arbitral institutions. He has been appointed in both administered and ad hoc cases, and has worked with many sets of arbitration rules, including, among others, those of the AAA, CPR, ICC, ICDR, JAMS, KCAB, LCIA, SCC and UNCITRAL.
Mr Schaner’s experience covers a broad spectrum of contract and other business disputes. Matters on which he has worked have involved, for example, antitrust, bankruptcy, construction, employment, energy, executive compensation, insurance, intellectual property, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, sale of goods, securities, tax, and trade secrets issues. He has also dealt with cases concerning distribution and franchise agreements, confidentiality and non-compete agreements, fraud and misrepresentation claims, purchase and sale agreements, supply contracts, hospitality industry matters, and telecommunications disputes. He has extensive experience with aerospace, aviation, government contracts, military and national defence matters, including, among others, matters involving nuclear submarines, missiles, small-calibre ammunition, military and commercial jets, helicopters and space launch vehicles.
He was selected as an “ADR Champion” by the National Law Journal in 2016 and “Chicago International Arbitration – Commercial Lawyer of the Year” in 2014 by Best Lawyers in America. He was awarded the President’s Prize by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in 2003 for receiving the highest mark on its Award Writing Examination. He is ranked in Band 1 of Chambers USA, in its nationwide international arbitration: arbitrators category.
Mr Schaner is co-editor of the treatise International Arbitration in the United States (Wolters Kluwer 2018). From 2013 to 2018, he was the editor of the International Bar Association’s journal Dispute Resolution International. He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, member of the ICC Commission on Arbitration and former officer of the IBA arbitration committee (2008-2013). He has spoken and published extensively on international arbitration and cross-border dispute resolution topics and is a member of many professional organisations in the US and worldwide.
Mr Schaner earned his JD from Stanford Law School in 1986 and AB from Duke University in 1982. Following law school, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable Cecil F Poole, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is a member of the Bars of the States of California, Illinois and New York.