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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Philippe Pinsolle

Philippe Pinsolle

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLPAvenue Pictet de Rochemont, 20GenevaGenevaSwitzerlandCH-1207

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Philippe Pinsolle is well known as “a leader in international arbitration” and impresses peers and clients alike with his “excellent experience in commercial and investment treaty arbitration”. They note that “he has worked on some of the largest cases in the world”, and that “he provides only good and valuable advice.”

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 senior vice chair of the IBA arbitration committee and will become co-chair in 2020.

What attracted you to a career in the law?

I initially studied business and obtained an MBA from a top French business school, but I was not really interested in the academic aspect of business. Business is fascinating but, with very few exceptions, it is not really an academic topic. By contrast, I was intellectually interested by the law. I therefore naturally went to the law university and I have never regretted that choice. That said, my business training proved extremely helpful for international arbitration, especially quantum issues.

What do you enjoy most about your role as the firm’s head of arbitration for continental Europe?

Titles do not mean much in our firm. We are organised in a rather horizontal fashion. What I enjoy about my practice is interacting with sophisticated clients and other arbitration (and non-arbitration) practitioners. We have a uniquely deep bench at Quinn Emanuel, with top litigators on every conceivable topic. Creating ad hoc teams dedicated to a given case, defining strategy with the team and the client and implementing it in the most efficient way are very rewarding professional moments.

How do you envisage global arbitration will adapt and deal with the growing role of third-party funding?

When third-party funding was introduced, many viewed it as both a great opportunity and a potential danger. The great opportunity was the possibility for meritorious cases that would not otherwise proceed to be tried, often successfully. The potential danger came from the fear that, at some point, third-party funders would dominate the market and start squeezing lawyers’ fees, the way the social security did with doctors. That fear, of course, was exaggerated. Perhaps because of competition, or because third-party funding is often expensive, it does not dominate the market today. Nonetheless, it is an important factor to which arbitration had to adapt. As is often the case, paths are diverging between commercial arbitration and investment arbitration. Investment arbitration leaning towards full transparency, while commercial arbitration operates more on a case-by-case basis.

What factors would you say are driving the growing doubts surrounding the legitimacy of investment arbitration?

Investment arbitration is a by-product of investment protection – and investment protection is not exactly the flavour of the month these days. It is no longer acceptable to the general public that a facility of an industrial site belonging to foreign parties should enjoy greater protection than a comparable site belonging to local parties. Protectionism and nationalism are dominant today, at least in some jurisdictions. As a result, investment arbitration suffers from collateral damages. This situation will not be solved by tweaking the mechanism of investment arbitration because it is a fundamental concern. People distrust investment protection and they distrust investment arbitration as a result, not necessarily knowing what it is.

In what ways are you seeing this increasing concern impact the world of commercial arbitration?

The discussion on investment arbitration is not a technical discussion, it is a policy discussion. The risk, however, is a spill-over effect on commercial arbitration. Commercial arbitration is unaffected by the concerns surrounding investment arbitration. States are generally absent (except in their commercial capacity). Disputes rarely revolve around governmental policies or regulations, but focus on contract interpretation. Commercial arbitration has been for decades the most efficient mechanism for resolving disputes in international business matters and this should continue.

How does the need for transparency differ when looking at investment and commercial arbitration?

What is good for investment arbitration may not be good for commercial arbitration and vice versa. The debate over confidentiality and transparency is a good example of this. Transparency is generally necessary in investment arbitration (though some states would disagree, as was evidenced by the recent discussion at the UNCITRAL on this issue). By contrast, confidentiality is often needed in commercial arbitration to protect business secrets, such as intellectual property or to avoid sharing information in breach of antitrust laws. Put simply, confidentiality is not a dirty word in commercial arbitration.

How is the generational shift in arbitration practitioners impacting the landscape of the legal market?

Each generation of successful arbitration practitioners has a tendency to sterilise the immediate next one. As a result, you see a renewal every 15 years or so. The next one will occur within the next 10 years.

What is the greatest piece of career advice you have received?

“Keep learning.” Look at what others do around you and learn from them. There is always something to learn from an arbitration hearing.

Thought Leaders - Arbitration 2020

Q&A

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

Arbitration 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

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

Biography

Philippe Pinsolle is the head of international arbitration for continental Europe.  He has acted as counsel in more than 220 international arbitrations, with a particular focus on investor-state arbitrations and commercial disputes involving the energy, power, oil and gas, construction and defence industries. He has been involved in arbitrations under the auspices of virtually all major arbitration institutions, as well as in ad hoc cases under the UNCITRAL rules or otherwise.  He has also served as arbitrator in more than 45 cases, as well as expert witness on arbitration and French law issues.

Chambers Global reports that clients have described him as an “outstanding strategist” with a “great tactical sense”. His “pragmatic approach, great intellect and technical prowess set him apart”. Philippe has also been praised as an “oil and gas specialist”. Global Arbitration Review wrote in its GAR 100 survey that “Philippe Pinsolle is by many accounts a leader in his generation in Paris – possibly the leader” and Who’s Who Legal said: “Philippe Pinsolle is “a big player in both commercial and investment-treaty arbitrations” according to sources who note, “He is one of the absolute masters in the field.” He is regarded as “a great oral advocate” who is “one of the most impressive names around at the moment.'"   

Chambers Global has ranked Philippe Band 1 for international arbitration. He is also ranked in this publication for Africa-wide dispute resolution and global-wide public international law.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

National Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended
WWL Ranking: Recommended
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