Raëd Fathallah is a partner in Bredin Prat’s international arbitration group. Over the past 20 years, he has acted as counsel on the record on more than 100 cases and sat as arbitrator on more than 60 cases. He is particularly well known for his expertise in investment disputes and is listed on the ICSID Panel of Conciliators and Arbitrators. According to sources quoted by Who’s Who Legal, Raëd is considered “one of the brightest minds of his generation” who delivers “first-class work”.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION?
Growing up during the war in Lebanon, I inevitably developed a passion for history, international relations and the quest for justice. Being the son of a successful lawyer has undoubtedly shaped my perception of the profession and its core values and encouraged me to study law. I discovered international arbitration during my studies and was immediately drawn to it as it is the perfect discipline to combine my passion for advocacy and international law. It is also fascinating because it involves working continuously in highly diverse industries and regions and interacting with interesting people from a range of disciplines and cultures.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
I enjoy working with a group of extremely talented and stimulating teammates.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES FACING INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION?
Over the past few decades, international arbitration has overcome significant challenges and will continue to evolve with, and adapt to, the needs of its users. I believe that the flexibility inherent in arbitration will allow it to address the requirements of the changing zeitgeist that characterises each period (one of the hottest topics these last years was transparency). One particular challenge that remains insufficiently addressed is the ethics of counsel conduct in times where no uniform rules exist and counsel (mis)conduct often harms the process and goes unsanctioned. For arbitration to be perceived as fair by all stakeholders (especially in the arena of ISDS), the players in the field need to set an example through their conduct.
WHAT WILL BREDIN PRAT LOOK TO DO IN ORDER TO ENHANCE ITS ARBITRATION PRACTICE IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS?
We will continue to try to grow and develop our practice slowly but surely. In doing so we will continue to recruit the brightest talents. When I joined the firm in 2005, the arbitration team already had long-standing experience. Together with my partners, we grew the team to what is today and we are now ranked as one of the leading practices in France and Europe. We are more than 20 lawyers combining 12 nationalities and I am proud to see that many among our younger talent are recognised as Future Leaders. Our true challenge will be to resist the temptation of growing exponentially so as to maintain our model of lean, senior-heavy teams, which is Bredin Prat’s distinctive feature.
YOU REGULARLY ACT AS COUNSEL AND SIT AS ARBITRATOR. HOW DOES YOUR EXPERIENCE IN EACH ROLE ENHANCE YOUR PERFORMANCE IN THE OTHER?
I believe that I am always learning from my experience as arbitrator new ways to enhance my skills as an advocate – presenting my case in a clear and concise manner to best assist the tribunal as well as gaining and preserving the tribunal’s trust throughout the process.
Likewise, my experience as counsel has taught me how to be a better arbitrator. There is no magical formula for being a good arbitrator. Independence and neutrality are a given. The same applies to an arbitrator’s ability to remain open-minded and flexible about the different backgrounds and mindsets of all involved. You either have those inherent qualities or you don’t. What is paramount is preparation and availability. As counsel, there is nothing more frustrating than realising that after two years of hard work on a case, some of the panel members may not have the appropriate grounding of the case during the first day of the hearing. I therefore endeavour to prepare for my role as arbitrator with the same level of detail and critical eye as I do in my role as counsel.
While I realise that this so-called double-hatting is coming under criticism in the field of ISDS, I continue to believe that the ability for an arbitration practitioner to benefit from the insight obtained from taking both roles is one of its most valuable characteristics.
YOU HAVE HAD A VERY DISTINGUISHED CAREER TO DATE. WHAT WOULD YOU STILL LIKE TO ACHIEVE THAT YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY?
I have been fortunate to act on cases involving dozens of jurisdictions spanning all continents. I still have a lot to learn and discover. I would like to increase my involvement in Asia and Latin America and to be more involved in sports arbitration, as well as arbitration in the art world.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNGER PRACTITIONERS WHO HOPE TO BE IN YOUR POSITION ONE DAY?
Broaden your horizons. There is more to life than arbitration and the law. Learn, learn and keep on learning. Specialisation is overrated. Seize every opportunity early on to build a solid background in law and general litigation (alongside a few language skills). The rest will come naturally. Be curious to learn about other cultures and disciplines. The moment this curiosity fades away, stop practising international arbitration.