Michael Young QC is a partner specialising in international arbitration. He is one of the leading practitioners globally and serves as a vice president of the ICC Court of Arbitration. He has represented clients in countless arbitrations throughout the world. Although experienced across all industry and market sectors, he has a specific focus on energy, manufacturing and infrastructure disputes. Those disputes have arisen worldwide, but with a particular focus on Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
WHAT DREW YOU TO COMMERCIAL ARBITRATION AS YOUR SPECIALITY?
My early career was grounded in the resolution of energy disputes, most of which are settled by international arbitration. From those early cases I moved into a wide range of other industries. The common factor became the dispute resolution mechanism, rather than the sector. The spread of different seats, applicable laws, arbitral rules and subject matter has held my focus on commercial arbitration since.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST INTERESTING ARBITRATION TO DATE AS COUNSEL?
It is genuinely hard to say; every case has its highlights and I am fortunate to work on interesting disputes. Perhaps the most important are those that involve false allegations of wrongdoing against a client (such as fraud or misrepresentation); to have managed to dismiss every one of those during my career has been particularly rewarding.
HOW HAS YOUR ROLE AS VICE PRESIDENT OF THE ICC ENHANCED YOUR ARBITRATION PRACTICE? IN WHAT WAYS IS THE ICC EVOLVING TO ADDRESS THE CHALLENGES FACED BY ARBITRATION?
Given the extremely high regard in which the ICC Court and Secretariat is held (and deservedly so), the ability to know intimately the letter and spirit of their Rules – as well as those who administer them – has been a real privilege. It helps confirm (or reinforce) your judgement on various procedural and tactical issues. It has also been a privilege to be part of an institution that has been modernised so effectively over the past decade, notably on issues affecting transparency and efficiency. Alexis Mourre, and John Beechey before him, both deserve enormous praise.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
Arguing cases, plain and simple. That is the best part of the job (and the ability to do so was another draw to this field). Beyond that, I have always enjoyed spending time with clients to understand their own businesses, both commercially and technically. Maybe I read too much Richard Scarry as a child, but I have always had a fascination with how things are built and how they work.
YOU HAVE EXTENSIVE EXPERIENCE WITH ARBITRATIONS SEATED IN AFRICAN JURISDICTIONS. WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR PRACTITIONERS LOOKING TO TAKE ON WORK IN THE REGION?
The range of work and the diversity of practice are among the most exciting aspects of working in Africa, married with the ability to work closely with many of the continent’s best lawyers (who are among the most impressive anywhere in the world). As for advice to other practitioners, the most important would be to avoid a common trap. Many people assume that “Africa” is a single place. It is not. It is a widely varied, heterogeneous collection of jurisdictions, with different legal cultures, languages and histories. You have to get to know each of the jurisdictions with which you become involved, as well as learn from (and respect) the local Bar in each.
IN WHAT WAYS DOES QUINN EMANUEL DISTINGUISH ITSELF FROM THE COMPETITION?
The fact that Quinn Emanuel is a disputes-only practice, with an emphasis on the highest-quality trial preparation and advocacy, means that its life-blood matches precisely that of an international arbitration lawyer. The DNA of the firm is the DNA of our practice area. That is unique in the market. Beyond that, the team is very close. The partners all know one another very well. Indeed, many have come back together again after working at the same firms in the past (and were delighted to have done so!).
HOW DO YOU THINK BREXIT WILL POTENTIALLY IMPACT ARBITRATION PRACTICE?
There is some hubris in trying to predict anything on Brexit. Writing this in mid-March 2019, it remains unclear whether Brexit will even happen – or, if it does, what type of Brexit it will be. Having said that, and speaking professionally, arbitration may well be one of the few areas where the impact of Brexit is likely to be limited. It might even make London a more attractive seat.
YOU HAVE HAD AN OUTSTANDING CAREER TO DATE. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACHIEVE IN THE FUTURE?
There is also some hubris in trying to predict future achievements! Having said that, within Quinn Emanuel it would be great to see the practice continue to grow. That would include further internal promotions, given the excellent group of counsel and associates with whom we are fortunate enough to work. It would also be good to see Africa-related disputes develop to a point where they are as likely to be seated within that continent as elsewhere.
Michael Young QC is "a standout name" in the arbitration space whose practice focuses on representing clients in energy, construction and infrastructure disputes.
Michael Young QC is a partner at Quinn Emanuel and Queen’s Counsel specialising in international arbitration. He is one of the leading practitioners globally, joining Quinn Emanuel from Allen & Overy (where he was global co-head of the arbitration practice). He is a first-class law graduate of both Cambridge and Oxford universities, and acts as a vice president of the ICC Court of Arbitration. He has advised and represented clients in countless arbitrations throughout the world, both ad hoc and under all the major institutional rules. Although experienced across all industry and market sectors, he has a specific focus on energy, manufacturing and infrastructure disputes. Those disputes have arisen worldwide, but with a particular focus on Africa (both North and sub-Saharan), the United States, Asia and the Middle East. He is a leading advocate – regularly arguing cases before arbitral tribunals and experts – and has been on the executive committee of the Federation for International Arbitration Advocacy since its inception (and for which he has taught advocacy classes around the world). Michael sits frequently as an arbitrator himself. He has also written and spoken widely on arbitration issues, as well as teaching at the faculty of law at Sciences Po in Paris and on the University of London LLM arbitration programme.
The leading directories have described him as an “outstanding” lawyer; having “the wit of a master, [who] knows ICC rules inside out, and never loses”; “a brilliant lawyer, demonstrating excellent leadership and strategic ability”; “he has perfect mastery of the rules of arbitration and procedure, as well as a spectacular ability to resolve cases”; and “one of the country’s premier advocates”.