Internationally recognised for his competence, extensive experience and intellectual honesty, Professor Pierre Mayer is considered one of the few great names of international arbitration. He now acts mainly as an arbitrator, in both commercial and investment arbitration procedures. He is a specialist in international arbitration law and private international law, two subjects that he has taught for decades at the University of Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne), where he was a professor from 1984 to 2012 and has been an emeritus professor since 2012. Prior to setting up his own office, Professor Pierre Mayer practiced with Coudert Brothers, Clifford Chance and Dechert, where he was a partner for 10 years.
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN LAW?
I was motivated to pursue a career in law by my family tradition, which I wanted to continue. Both my parents were avocats at the Paris Bar.
YOU FOCUS THE MAJORITY OF YOUR PRACTICE ON ACTING AS ARBITRATOR – WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE ROLE THAT APPEALS TO YOU?
First, I like resolving difficult problems. Second, I like to find out where the justice of the case lies. By justice I mean a correct result of applicable rules to the facts of the case. In my experience, it is extremely rare that the application of the law and/or contract terms result in an unfair outcome. Even in such cases, the law normally provides tools to address the unfairness.
HOW HAS THE PRACTICE OF INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION CHANGED SINCE YOU BEGAN YOUR CAREER?
I observe arbitration becoming a heavier process: hundred-pages-long redfern schedules, constant procedural requests from the parties, extremely long memorials, excessive numbers of exhibits filed, etc. I regret that certain common law practices – which are not bad in themselves – are abused in arbitral practice.
TO WHAT EXTENT IS SECTOR AND INDUSTRY-RELATED SPECIALISATION ON THE PART OF THE ARBITRATOR IMPORTANT?
The only sector/industry that – to my knowledge – requires a specific specialisation is construction. In certain other sectors, a specialisation can facilitate the arbitrators’ work but is not absolutely necessary. This is the case, for example, in the energy sector.
WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FACING THE NEXT GENERATION OF ARBITRATION LAWYERS?
I imagine that arbitration has become even more competitive than it used to be due to its increased attractiveness and the high number of professionals now claiming to be arbitration practitioners. In this new context, it might be more difficult to stand out.
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE DISPUTE YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
The most memorable cases I have worked on are probably those in which I acted as counsel, because the role is more challenging. Among those, the case concerning the sale by France of military frigates to Taiwan, involving corruption of foreign officials, is probably the most memorable. As to my role as arbitrator, the unfortunately memorable cases are those in which I was a co-arbitrator and, on two occasions, I felt that the outcome reached in the award by the majority was profoundly unjust.
WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF CAREER ADVICE YOU HAVE RECEIVED?
I do not remember having received advice that really struck me. However, the advice I do give to young practitioners is to be themselves and not to a get a big head as soon as they become successful.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT TO DATE?
My daughter, who is a university professor specialised in civil procedure and a young arbitrator.
Pierre Mayer is "one of the most sophisticated and intelligent arbitrators in the market" according to peers who "have a lot of respect for his work" as both arbitrator and counsel.
Internationally recognised for his competence, extensive experience and intellectual honesty, Professor Pierre Mayer is considered one of the few great names of international arbitration. He now acts mainly as an arbitrator, in both commercial and investment arbitration procedures.
He is a specialist in international arbitration law and private international law, two subjects which he has taught for decades at the University of Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne) where he was a professor from 1984 to 2012 and has been an emeritus professor since 2012.
Prior to setting up his own office, Professor Pierre Mayer practiced with Coudert Brothers, Clifford Chance and Dechert, where he was a partner for 10 years.
A French qualified avocat, Professor Pierre Mayer has acted as counsel or arbitrator in hundreds of proceedings under a variety of ad hoc or institutional arbitration rules, in commercial and investment matters. His experience spans a variety of sectors and all forms of contracts.
Professor Pierre Mayer regularly speaks at conferences. He is the author of the reference textbook on French international private law and of a general course at the Hague Academy of International Law. He has published dozens of articles on arbitration law and practice and on private international law.
He is also, inter alia, former president of the International Academy for Arbitration Law, member of the council of the ICC Institute of World Business Law, member of the board of the Comité français de l’arbitrage, member of the Institut de droit international, and former president of the committee on international commercial arbitration of the International Law Association.
A French national, Professor Pierre Mayer is fluent in English.