How would you describe yourself in three words?

(1) Thankful (2) Fallible (3) Collegiate – (1) Life is as unfair as it is imperfect. I always remind myself of how much harder things are for others, and grateful for what has worked out in my personal and professional life. (2) The joy of staying curious about what you don't know comes with the humility of accepting the limits of what you do know – so there’s little point, besides hubris, pretending to have all the answers. (3) Exploring ideas with others with a shared sense of respect & responsibility fosters open discourse, generates new perspectives, and encourages those around you to take ownership. It helps if you accept that you are not infallible.          

How did you first get involved in arbitration work?

I would like to say it was part of some deliberate carefully thought-out plan of action - it wasn’t. As with much in (certainly my) life, it was a fluid mix of circumstance & choice.

In the late 1980s, my then Firm was looking to start a construction disputes practice. That coincided with my leaving for London on a British Council Fellowship program for young lawyers in the Commonwealth. With some nudging from my Firm, I ended up spending time with the construction & disputes groups at Herbert Smith and the barristers at 10 Essex Street (later renamed Keating Chambers, with the passing of Donald Keating, who was head of chambers during my brief stint). I enjoyed the work and, on my return, turned my attention to growing the construction disputes practice. Of course, then as now, almost all the construction contracts had arbitration clauses. And that marked the start of my journey down that rabbit hole.         

In the course of your work, do you notice a trend in clients preferring arbitration over litigation as a form of dispute resolution?

The lawyers have always enjoyed the relative informality and more congenial dynamics of arbitration - none of the formality of gowns, standing when speaking, and bowing. No one lords it over the others. There is a general sense that everyone is working together to sort out a common problem, quickly and effectively. For the clients, they see real value in not just the confidentiality of arbitration, but the ability to choose a Tribunal they have confidence in.

Of course, there is the trade-off of finality. But there is good commercial sense in moving on quickly from a dispute, rather than languishing in the perfection of an appeals process that drags it out.

While there have been changes of degree over the years, these broad distinctions remain and will continue to draw many to arbitration over litigation.

What is the most memorable arbitration or arbitration related matter that you were involved in, and why?

It was an arbitration some years ago with Lord Hoffman as presiding arbitrator. I sat in, having had a minor ringside role as counsel on some related Court proceedings.

Lord Hoffman was treated as a bit of rock star in the corridors of Maxwell Chambers during the breaks, with countless lawyers wondering in and out of other hearings posing for pictures with him. He seemed quite game and was happy to accommodate the never-ending intrusions as he tried to fight his way to the restrooms during the breaks. But I digress.

The arbitration was a complex hard-fought case. Both parties had QCs (as they then were). At the close of the hearing, Lord Hoffman asked the 2 QCs to confirm in turn that they each had a reasonable opportunity to present their case. It seemed a bit of a formality and the easy going manner in which Lord Hoffman raised it suggested he thought so too. And so, it seemed did the QCs, until it came to the 2nd QC.

As everyone waited for the expected confirmation, he cleared his throat and then stunned the room by announcing that his instructions were to decline the confirmation.  Everyone looked up from packing their bags. No one said a word. As the attention turned to the Tribunal, Lord Hoffman had a look of mild surprise seemingly mixed with irritation. it was hard to tell which was dominant, from my restricted view seat on the outer stalls. He held a brief discussion with his wing arbitrators.

He then turned to the QC with a look you might expect a school principal to give a schoolboy caught smoking and announced that if the QC was unable to provide the requested confirmation, the Tribunal would invite the party to make a formal application to deal with any perceived or real shortcomings. The Tribunal would consider the application and make a ruling.

The QC didn’t appear to have expected Lord Hoffman to return what he thought was his ace serve. He called for time out seeking an adjournment to confer with his clients. They all trooped out. When they returned, the QC quite meekly gave the confirmation Lord Hoffman had sought!   

It was a master class in how an experienced Tribunal can diffuse what would otherwise have remained a slow burning threat about due process, that could have been used in a Court challenge if the Award went against the party.

Who is the person(s) who has had the greatest impact and/or influence on your career?

Joe Grimberg. He understood that as Counsel, the Tribunal looks to you for answers. Not your team – you. So, he made sure he was always on top of the law and the facts of his case. That required hard work. He would often book himself into a hotel room in the weeks leading up to a heavy hearing to ensure he could work without distraction.

He treated his opponents as he did those he worked with – with courtesy and respect.

Even as a pupil, he would introduce me to clients as his colleague. He was then Senior Partner of Drew & Napier, and the doyen of the Singapore Bar. As a pupil (or trainee as they are now called), I was a notch below the bottom of the food chain. You didn’t see that kind of attitude very often. 

I have tried hard to emulate his professional values ever since.

If you weren’t in your current profession, what profession would you be in?

Probably an architect. I enjoy beautiful buildings - from the spectacular art deco of the Chrysler Building in New York, the neo-gothic, art nouveau style of Antoni Gaudi’s dizzying work in Barcelona, the modernist & contemporary fluid lines of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to our very own ‘typewriter” Golden Mile Complex with its (somewhat uncharitably named) brutalist style.

They are all joys to behold. Who would not wish to be part of creating something that so elegantly straddles the line between utility and art.        

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Seeking to conjure the perfect gin tonic and creating home gin infusions. 

What is one talent that not many people know you have?

Struggling amateur musician.

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