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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

The "outstanding" Philippe Pinsolle is "a very well-known and experienced lawyer" with extensive experience in energy and construction disputes. ​

Questions & Answers

Philippe Pinsolle is the head of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP’s international arbitration in continental Europe, based in Geneva. Philippe has over 25 years of experience as counsel, expert and arbitrator in international arbitration, including commercial arbitration, investment treaty arbitration, energy and major infrastructures disputes. He has been involved in arbitrations under the auspices of virtually all major arbitration institutions. Philippe is currently co-chair of the IBA arbitration committee.

What did you find most challenging about entering the field of international arbitration?

International arbitration was very different when I entered the field, at the beginning of the 1990s. Treaty arbitration did not exist. Arbitration cases revolved almost exclusively around large energy projects, primarily in oil and gas, and large infrastructure projects. There was only a handful of players. It may seem paradoxical but what I found most challenging was understanding the underlying industries. This is why I decided to follow a formal training programme at the French Institute of Petroleum, as I was doing a lot of oil and gas cases at the time.

What do you enjoy most about your role as co-chair of the IBA arbitration committee?

The IBA is all about teamwork. Your tenure is short, two years as co-chair but only one as senior co-chair. You inherit existing projects commenced by your predecessors and you initiate new projects, which will be completed by your successors. I enjoy very much this sense of continuity and the collegiality of the IBA arbitration committee.

How would you assess the interaction between criminal proceedings and arbitration?

Interaction is a very ambitious word. There is no real interaction, at least from the moment where regulatory enforcing authorities (such as the DOJ) or the prosecution enter the picture. From this point onwards, the whole process is dictated by the needs of the criminal procedure. The arbitration procedure becomes sort of secondary, with no option but to monitor the criminal procedure and draw the consequences from the evolution of this process. 

How has the increased use of human rights and environmental laws in arguments affected investment treaty arbitration?

The fact that human rights in general are now regularly referred to in investment arbitration is hard to deny. It is only a natural evolution of the growing importance of human rights and there is nothing wrong with that – on the contrary. What may be more problematic is the notion that some rights are more important than others because they are more legitimate, more exactly because the underlying values protected by those rights are perceived as more legitimate. This is an eminently subjective approach that may, if it is to be encouraged, erode the rule of law. 

How have concerns surrounding transparency in arbitration proceedings been addressed?

One should distinguish between two things: transparency regarding the process, which has increased considerably over recent years and transparency regarding the content of any given arbitration. As to the latter, there is no consensus, even in treaty arbitrations where there is nonetheless a quasi-presumption that the arbitration is not confidential. For commercial arbitrations, there are many legitimate limits to transparency. Confidentiality is necessary in many disputes, such as gas price reviews, and trade secret or intellectual property disputes.

What are the main challenges arbitration lawyers face regarding third-party funding of claims?

More transparency is perhaps necessary in this sector, in order to level the playing field and avoid unnecessary conflicts with arbitrators.

What steps can younger arbitration practitioners take to improve their chances of getting appointments? Is there an important role to play here for experienced lawyers?

The most difficult appointment to get is the first appointment. Once this step is completed, the prospective arbitrator can rely on this prior experience. The highest chance of getting a first appointment is to be appointed by counsel from the same generation, if only because they know you personally. My advice is therefore to market your peers and not waste too much time with more senior lawyers. 

How does your role as arbitrator enhance your approach when acting as counsel and vice versa?

It is immensely useful to act in both capacities. Sitting as arbitrator gives you a major advantage when you act as counsel, because it enables you to know from the inside how other arbitrators function; to detect messages sent by the tribunal; and not to reproduce mistakes made by other counsel but rather emulate what they are doing well. Acting as counsel keeps you down to earth and prevents you from forgetting, when you sit as arbitrator, that the most important players are the parties themselves, who finance the whole exercise.

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended
WWL Ranking: Recommended

National Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended
WWL Ranking: Recommended
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