Grant Hanessian
Office:
452 Fifth Avenue
10018
City:
New York
State:
New York
Country:
USA
Tel:
+1 212 891 3986
Fax:
+1 212 310 1686

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Arbitration

Grant Hanessian is a partner in the New York office of Baker McKenzie, where he chairs the North American international arbitration practice. He acts as counsel and arbitrator in disputes concerning investment, energy, construction, financial services, and many other matters. He is US alternate member of the ICC International Court of Arbitration, chairman of the USCIB/ICC-USA arbitration committee, vice president of the LCIA’s North American users’ council, and member of the ICDR-AAA’s international advisory council.

AS CHAIR OF THE FIRM’S INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION GROUP IN NORTH AMERICA, WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN PRIORITIES IN TERMS OF THE TEAM’S DEVELOPMENT AT THE MOMENT?

Baker McKenzie has been a leading international arbitration firm in North America since the 1950s. Throughout the world, we have more arbitration lawyers in more places than any other firm, particularly in emerging markets. Our arbitration teams share a long-standing legacy of technical excellence, local knowledge and personal friendship. Our challenge in North America is to continue to grow our practice without compromising our culture.

HOW HAS THE COMPETITION IN THE INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION FIELD DEVELOPED SINCE YOU BEGAN YOUR CAREER?

When I began at Baker McKenzie in 1986, there were only a handful of lawyers in the US with significant international arbitration experience. Few countries outside of Western Europe had effective international commercial arbitration national laws, national arbitration institutions with a significant number of international cases or an international arbitration bar.

Things are completely different now of course: the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the CIS provide many of the most active parties, counsel and arbitrators in international arbitrations. Virtually every law firm in the world with a commercial disputes practice promotes its capabilities in international arbitration. There are of course many political and economic reasons for this dramatic expansion of the field, but as we celebrate the 25th year of the Willem C Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot, in which some 4,000 students will participate in Vienna and Hong Kong, I think it is particularly appropriate to note the impact of technology: the internet provides global access to arbitration materials and sharing of expertise that was unimaginable 30 years ago.   

HAVING PRACTISED AS BOTH ARBITRATOR AND COUNSEL, HOW HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE IN EACH ROLE AFFECTED YOUR APPROACH TO THE OTHER?

My work as an arbitrator has confirmed much of what I thought I knew as an advocate: the importance of giving the tribunal a clear, concise, consistent narrative and gaining the tribunal’s trust. Also, as an advocate, I’ve always liked using demonstrative exhibits – telling the story of an entire case on a timeline, for example – and I find these helpful as an arbitrator. Counsel in complex cases should always consider if a narrative can be conveyed graphically. Try to imagine an issue of The Economist without charts and graphs!

WHAT QUALITIES MAKE FOR A SUCCESSFUL ARBITRATOR?

An arbitrator must, of course, be prepared, organised and able to listen – to let the parties have full opportunity to present their cases while conducting proceedings in an efficient manner. I also think the best arbitrators place a premium on checking their egos and encouraging collegiality. 

WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING CASE YOU HAVE WORKED ON IN YOUR CAREER? 

One of the great pleasures of international arbitration is that there are interesting things in all the cases. At the moment, I’m involved as arbitrator or counsel in matters concerning activities in the US, Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia. The cases raise issues under many legal systems and treaties and involve many different industries. I meet interesting people and learn interesting things in every case.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE PROUDEST MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR?

Early in my time at Baker McKenzie, as a mid-level associate, I cross-examined a damages expert in an arbitration in The Hague involving a state. Notwithstanding the pressures of the moment – large case, packed room, a distinguished panel – I felt very calm and focused during the examination, and after it was over the client said some nice things to me about my performance. It was on that day that I thought I would be able to make my career in the field.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FACED BY THE GENERATION OF ARBITRATION PRACTITIONERS BEHIND YOU?

We know that nothing is inevitable and history does not end: no one should assume that international arbitration will continue to grow and prosper. Investor-state arbitration is under threat from many quarters (I write this a week after the Court of Justice of the European Union issued its Achmea decision). More fundamentally, the continued growth of international arbitration requires that states do not unduly restrict movement of people, services, goods and capital and respect their international obligations, all of which is threatened by the “nationalism” currently on offer in many countries, including my own. Also, in the US, there are persistent concerns about the fairness of certain forms of domestic arbitration (involving consumers, employment, etc), which may affect perceptions of international arbitration. It is critical that the next generation argue not merely for more efficient and effective international dispute resolution, but for increased international cooperation generally.

Biography:

Who's Who Legal Arbitration: Lawyers

Grant Hanessian heads Baker McKenzie’s North American international arbitration practice group, having served as global co-chair from 2009 to 2015. Mr Hanessian has more than 25 years’ experience as counsel and arbitrator in disputes concerning investment, energy, construction, commodities, financial services, intellectual property and other matters.

Mr Hanessian is US member of the ICC International Court of Arbitration; chairman of the arbitration committee of ICC-USA and US vice president of the LCIA North American users’ council. He is a member of the ICC commission on arbitration; the ICC task force on financial institutions and international arbitration (co-leader of investment arbitration working group); the AAA-ICDR international advisory committee and its advisory committee on Brazil; the International Arbitration Club of New York; the Spanish Arbitration Club; and the SIAC Users Council. He is also a founding board member of the New York International Arbitration Center.

He is editor of ICDR Awards and Commentaries, Vol I (Juris, 2012) and Vol II (Juris, 2017 and 2018) and co-editor of International Arbitration Checklists (third edition; Juris, 2016), Gulf War Claims Reporter (ILI/Kluwer, 1998) and Baker McKenzie’s International Litigation & Arbitration Newsletter.

Mr Hanessian is recommended by Chambers Global and Chambers USA, in which he is described as “very knowledgeable and strategic in his offering of critical advice”, and an “elite lawyer” who is “very experienced, hugely knowledgeable and effective”, and "powerful advocate for clients”. The Legal 500 calls him “a great practitioner” with a “strong commercial profile”. He is also recommended by PLC’s Which Lawyer?, WWL: Arbitration and the Expert Guide to Leading Practitioners in International Arbitration (which rates him as the “best of the best” in international commercial arbitration).

WWL says: Grant Hanessian stands out as an "incredibly smart counsel", with sources noting him as a go-to lawyer for commercial and investment treaty disputes.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Arbitration which can be purchased from our Shop.

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