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Who's Who Legal
Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Loukas Mistelis

Loukas Mistelis

Queen Mary University of LondonSchool of International Arbitration67-69 Lincoln's Inn FieldsLondonEnglandWC2A 3JB

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

Peers and clients say

"He is an outstanding arbitrator and academic"
"Loukas possesses immense knowledge about investment arbitration’s standards of protection and more generally about international arbitration procedural issues"
"He is one of the senior statesman of arbitration"

Questions & Answers

Loukas Mistelis is a professor of transnational law and arbitration, director of the Institute of Transnational Commercial Law, former director of the School of International Arbitration (2002-2019) at Queen Mary University of London; and founding partner of Mistelis & Haddadin, an arbitration law consultancy. He is an experienced arbitration academic and practitioner, having acted for more than 20 years in well over 70 international arbitration proceedings, covering commercial, investment, construction and other matters. He is listed in WWL: Arbitration (2006–) and The Legal 500 Arbitration Powerlist as a highly regarded individual.

What inspired you to pursue a legal career?

I was the first lawyer in my family. Even as a teenager, I was fascinated by international relations, public international law and the role of law in dispute resolution. I had always perceived lawyers as business facilitators and dispute resolvers even before I went to law school. The very first influential memory relates to reading a six-volume autobiography of a lawyer turned diplomat. This book fascinated me as a young teenager. I was also impressed by famous law characters in popular culture: in particular, TV and movies characters and their ability to focus on specific legal issues, ask pertinent questions and strategise the case’s defence. Still, it was international law that attracted me to a legal career after all. When I went to law school, it became clear within a couple of semesters that international arbitration was my calling as it was the perfect blend of international law and dispute resolution.

What do you enjoy most about your work in international arbitration?

The particular attraction of arbitration to me is threefold.  First, in most cases, you work with excellent lawyers who are excellent communicators, well trained, cosmopolitan and sophisticated, who demonstrate, in most cases, a high degree of collegiality and camaraderie. Second, arbitration provides opportunities for constant learning and deepening skills: one day, you are dealing with a defence contract. The following month the issue is about delays in the construction of a highway, and two months later, you have to arbitrate a hydroelectric dam dispute. And in one case, you have English law applicable, while the next case is subject to Greek or Chilean law, and the third is subject to Ethiopian law and a BIT. Third, there is hardly any comfort zone in international arbitration: no two cases are alike as it is not only the subject matter of the dispute that it is important but also the parties’ expectations and tribunal dynamics that equally impact the design and the conduct of the proceedings.  

As former director of the School of International Arbitration for some 17 years, what skills and traits do you encourage in the next generation of arbitration professionals?

The skills and traits I encourage the next generation of arbitration professionals to have are to some extent identical to the skills and traits required for any career in law: excellent oral and written communication skills, an analytical mind and strategic thinking, and a strong work ethic, including preparedness for hard work and last, but not least, impeccable professional ethics. In addition, international arbitration professionals would do better with a solid understanding of international law, comparative law sensibility, knowledge of a few languages and smooth networking skills: after all, the excellent technical skills will have to be visible. 

If you could implement one reform in international arbitration, what would it be?

It is critical that arbitration remains flexible and driven by parties’ needs. It would be useful to have multiple pathways for smaller and less complex cases (with a higher degree of expedition) but also a pathway fully emancipated from standard rules more suitable for complex and bigger cases. Arbitration requires bespoke solutions, and hence two or three pathways could facilitate an efficient structure of proceedings. It would also be useful to have an international instrument addressing insolvency in international arbitration as this is an area that differs a great deal among various legal systems.

Some argue that nation states’ efforts to regain sovereignty have put investor-state dispute settlement under threat. Do you agree with this thesis, and if so, what do you think lies in the future for investor-state arbitrations? 

I would not fully agree with the statement. While state sovereignty is and remains an important aspect of international and domestic law, the whole debate about the legitimacy of ISDS started from NGOs and academics rather than states. It is appropriate that ISDS and ISDS reform is a state-driven process. However, most states have little or no experience with ISDS cases as respondent so that no more than two dozen states drive the discussion about reforms. I would agree that reform is both inevitable and essential, and even welcome. However, the current process is akin to putting the cart in front of the horse. It is essential to reform and multilateralise substantive protection before we embark on procedural and jurisdictional reform. Last, but not least, multilateralism is more effective when it is consensual. 

What would be the advantages and challenges of developing international accreditation procedures for arbitral institutions based on common standards?

Most popular and well-known arbitral institutions are not accredited and enjoy an excellent reputation. Accreditation is essential for domestic institutions, particularly in jurisdictions where there have been instances of sham arbitral institutions. Still, accreditation can bring about some checks and balances, and compliance structures where such did not exist before. Most accreditation, however, has been at the national level and may appear to be an attempt to restrict access to arbitration. I would favour accreditation being organised by IFCAI organically and with a view of ensuring appropriate standards of quality and an ensuing transnationalisation. I would also particularly welcome a standardisation of reporting: eg, cases registered, cases that proceed to full arbitration, cases that proceed to award, etc.  

You have enjoyed an illustrious career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?

It is not for me to judge whether my career has been illustrious or not. I consider myself fulfilled and fortunate to have been involved in so many important cases and to have worked with many distinguished colleagues. Moreover, I have been involved in cases in the most important seats and under the auspices of most distinguished arbitral institutions. I was approached a few years ago to act in a state-to-state arbitration but was at the time conflicted. This is something I would very much like to do. 

What advice would you give to younger lawyers hoping to one day be in your position?

Follow your dream, and if you face obstacles on the way, keep trying and work even harder. Impatience is an indication of youth; when you start becoming more patient, things start falling into place. 

Global Leader

Arbitration 2021

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

Peers and clients say

"He is an outstanding arbitrator and academic"
"Loukas possesses immense knowledge about investment arbitration’s standards of protection and more generally about international arbitration procedural issues"
"He is one of the senior statesman of arbitration"


Loukas Mistelis is a former director of the School of International Arbitration and the Clive Schmitthoff professor of transnational commercial law and arbitration at Queen Mary University of London. He teaches international commercial arbitration, international investment dispute settlement, energy disputes and ADR on the LLM programme. He is also a senior fellow of the dispute resolution institute at MitchellHamline University School of Law. He practises as an arbitrator and expert in arbitration proceedings from his own boutique consultancy firm, Mistelis and Haddadin.

Professor Mistelis was educated in Greece (LLB, Athens 1991); France (certificate in international and comparative human rights, IIHR, Strasbourg, 1990); Germany (MLE, 1992, Hanover Law School, Germany); and Japan (certificate in Japanese international trade law, Keio University Law School, Tokyo, 1998). He is also a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. He has been a member of the Athens Bar since 1993, and has guest-lectured at many universities, including Columbia, Hamburg, Hamline, Keio, Lisbon, Maastricht, Roma III, LUISS, NYU, NUS, Pepperdine, PUC São Paolo, Sciences Po and Warsaw. He is fluent in English, German and Greek, has a good knowledge of French and a basic knowledge of Polish, Russian and Spanish.

He is chairman of the court at the Cyprus Eurasia Dispute Resolution and Arbitration Centre (CEDRAC) and a Member of the International Board of the Tehran Regional Arbitration Centre. He has been on the ICSID panel of arbitrators since January 2014, as well as on the panels of many other arbitral institutions, including JCAA, KLRCA and CAM-CCBC. His extensive arbitration experience covers ad hoc and ICC, ICSID, LCIA, LMAA, Swiss Chambers, SCC, GCC Arbitration Centre and Moscow cases. Parties in these cases have been from Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, BVI, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Korea, Kuwait, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Moldova, Nigeria, Russia, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, UAE, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States. Subject matters have included foreign investment, sales contracts, share purchase agreements, distribution agreements, defence contracts, infrastructure and construction agreements, finance and project finance, counter-trade, mining, media, aeronautical engineering, joint ventures, natural resources and oil and gas transactions. He acts mainly as an arbitrator but also as a counsel and expert witness in arbitration proceedings.

His publications (in English, German, Greek and Russian) include eight innovative empirical surveys on corporate attitudes towards dispute resolution (2006, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019), more than 60 refereed articles and 14 books, including Mandatory Rules of Law in International Arbitration (2010);

Concise International Arbitration (second edition, 2015); The Role of Arbitration in Shipping (2016); CISG Commentary (second edition, 2018) Arbitrability in International Arbitration (2008); Pervasive Problems in International Arbitration (2006); Commercial Law: Perspectives and Practice (2006); Comparative International Commercial Arbitration (2003); and Foundations and Perspectives of International Trade Law (2001). He is also the editor of the World Arbitration Reporter - The International Encyclopedia of Arbitration Law and Practice (2010). He is a member of the editorial boards of Arbitration International, the International Journal of Arab Arbitration, the Journal of International Dispute Settlement and Global Arbitration Review; and is general editor of the Oxford International Arbitration series and European Investment Law and Arbitration Review.

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