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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

"Stavros has a seemingly encyclopaedic recall of jurisprudence"
"A powerhouse in commercial arbitration"
"Stavros is extremely intelligent, a true team player and a pleasure to work with"
"He is highly respected and is making a name for himself as one of the great minds in the international arbitration world"
"A very well-regarded academic and arbitrator"

Questions & Answers

Professor Brekoulakis is the director of the School of International Arbitration, Queen Mary University of London and an arbitrator at 3 Verulam Buildings. Brekoulakis has extensive experience as arbitrator in over 60 arbitrations in both investment and commercial disputes under all major arbitration rules. He is praised by WWL as a “reigning thought leader in the arbitration space” and “one of the great minds in the international arbitration world” with “a seemingly encyclopaedic recall of jurisprudence”.

What do you enjoy most about working in arbitration?

Two things: the first is the people. International arbitration tends to attract many talented individuals. It is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with colleagues who are intelligent and have an international outlook.

The second is the field itself. International arbitration is currently one of the most exciting and important fields of international law. It is exciting because it cuts across several legal and non-legal disciplines, including private and public international law, substance and procedure, international economic law and human rights. It is also important because it often deals with issues that implicate the public interest and governmental policy. 

It fascinates me to be part of, and contribute to, legal discourses on international commercial and trade law, and to be able to influence – as an academic – the doctrine and policy of the law and participate – as arbitrator – in the resolution of large disputes involving international corporations, governments and state entities. 

You are highly regarded for your expertise in handling matters concerning the construction industry – which types of construction disputes do you anticipate arising in the future due to covid-19?

There are two types of covid-19-related disputes that have already given rise to construction arbitrations. The first are disputes concerning delay and disruption, which have significantly affected the construction industry. We are already seeing evidence that construction work is declining at the steepest rate since 2009. Many construction sites have been closed down, and where construction works continue, they are experiencing significant slowdown in supply chains for materials, and labour shortages due to illness, self-isolation and travel restrictions. Even when construction works resumes, contractors will have to abide by new health protocols that will involve severe restrictions in the number of workers that can be on site. These restrictions will significantly affect the level of productivity and the ability of contractors to mobilise manpower, and have already caused significant disruption and delays. 

The second are disputes arising out of concession contracts concerning the operation of infrastructure projects. Because the pandemic has seriously affected peoples’ ability to travel and commute both internationally and domestically, operators of, for example, airports and highways have seen a dramatic decline in their earnings, which has left them exposed to debts from financing the projects. Operators are now filing arbitration claims against states and state entities aiming to recover part of the substantial loss of profit they have experienced.  

How has the arbitration market demonstrated its resilience in the face of challenges posed by covid-19?

Faced with the prospect of recurrent postponements of arbitration hearings and extensive disruption of the process of thousands of ongoing arbitrations, arbitration institutions, counsel and arbitrators, have been quick to adapt to the new circumstances and come up with new sets of remote practices and protocols for online hearings. This has been international arbitration at its best: innovative, willing to embrace change and quick to implement solutions to real-life problems by relying on the use of cutting-edge technology.

All of us will look back to 2020 hoping that we not have to re-live such a treacherous turn of events. It is, however, likely that we will consider 2020 as the beginning of a new era of a more effective and technologically friendly practice of international dispute resolution. 

You were awarded best speech by the GAR awards for your 2019 Roebuck Lecture. Can you share highlights of what you discussed about the future of arbitration in England?

It was a great honour both to have been asked to give the 2019 Roebuck Lecture and to be awarded the 2020 GAR Award for best speech. 

The lecture traced back the historical development of the policy of English law favouring arbitration and offered, arguably for the first time, an account of English arbitration as a dispute resolution system that originally emerged as being part of, rather than antagonistic to, the English courts system. Understanding the history of arbitration’s development in England matters because it provides helpful insights into current debates surrounding the legitimacy of arbitration and calls for a potential reform of arbitration law both in England and internationally.

A wide range of scholars currently criticise arbitration as being part of a broader project of neoliberalism to serve private interests and challenge national courts and the protection of the public interest. It is thus argued that the legal policy favouring arbitration should be curtailed or altogether abolished.

However, as the lecture argued, arbitration in England did not historically emerge to challenge the state courts. rather, it developed as part of the court system and was largely viewed as a trusted supplement, rather than a substitute, to the courts. While some concerns about the boundaries of private justice are sound and must be addressed, calls for an indiscriminate abolition of the policy favouring arbitration represent a split from a long tradition in English law and are premised on a crude and historically unsupported account of arbitration as antagonistic to the judiciary and the state. Setting the historical record straight offers a positive account of historical role of arbitration offers cause for optimism about the future of arbitration in England and internationally.

Global Leader

Arbitration 2021

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

Peers and clients say

"Stavros has a seemingly encyclopaedic recall of jurisprudence"
"A powerhouse in commercial arbitration"
"Stavros is extremely intelligent, a true team player and a pleasure to work with"
"He is highly respected and is making a name for himself as one of the great minds in the international arbitration world"
"A very well-regarded academic and arbitrator"

Biography

Stavros Brekoulakis is a Professor in International Arbitration at Queen Mary University of London and an arbitrator at 3 Verulam Buildings.

Stavros has been appointed in more than 50 arbitrations (commercial and investment), as chairman, sole arbitrator, co-arbitrator and emergency arbitrator under all major arbitration rules and a wide range of national laws, including common, civil and Sharia law. His professional expertise focuses on arbitrations in major construction and complex infrastructure projects, energy and natural resources projects, investment disputes, post M&A disputes, financial transactions, indemnity and distribution shareholders’ agreements, sale of goods contracts, IP contracts and sports disputes

He is regularly listed in Who’s Who Legal: Arbitration, Who’s Who Legal: Construction and The Legal 500 being described as “extremely intelligent and hard-working”, “standing out as a first-rate arbitrator; an expert in construction and commercial disputes who is regularly engaged in matters arising out of major infrastructure projects around the world”.

Stavros has been named in 2018, 2019 and 2020 as a thought leader in Who’s Who Legal: Thought Leader, which includes an “exclusive list of the most highly regarded arbitrators who truly stand out in their field as being leaders and who are held in the highest esteem by their clients and fellow practitioners”.

He has been shortlisted twice in the past for the “Best Prepared and Most Responsive Arbitrator” Award of the Global Arbitration Review.

Stavros holds several public appointments including being a member of the LCIA Court, ICC Commission, the Investment Expert Trade Advisory Group of the UK Department for International Trade and Steering Committee of the UNCITRAL Academic Forum on ISDS.

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