Celebrating 10 Years of Young ICCA

Happy 10th Anniversary Young ICCA

In the challenging times we are living through, it is a point of special pride to celebrate Young ICCA’s 10th anniversary on 26 May 2020, together with the organisation’s three founding co-chairs, Marike Paulsson, Lise Bosman and Eduardo Damião Gonzalves. Young ICCA’s current co-chairs – Panagiotis Chalkias, Camilla Gambarini and Theominique Nottage - recently took the opportunity to discuss the creation of Young ICCA with their predecessors, as well as Young ICCA’s developments over the past 10 years, and reflect on what the future holds for the organisation.


Where it All Began

At the close of the 2010 ICCA Congress in Rio de Janeiro, Marike Paulsson, Lise Bosman and Eduardo Damiao Gonzalvez announced the creation of a new organisation: Young ICCA. It had been a two-year-long journey to get to this stage; in 2008, founding co-chair Marike Paulsson (then Counsel to ICCA) received the assignment of redesigning the ICCA website and, along with web designer Javier Krasuk, she began to brainstorm how ICCA might attract a younger and more diverse membership base. What followed was a period of strategic planning and informal consultation with stakeholders from within ICCA and beyond, including Oxfam and the World Bank. Under the guidance of then ICCA Secretary-General Antonio Parra, and the support of successive ICCA Presidents, including Jan Paulsson and Albert Jan van den Berg, ICCA moved towards a new, fresh vision – an organisation committed to ensuring that young arbitration practitioners from all backgrounds and regions have access to the field of international arbitration.


ICCA Executive Director Lise Bosman, who joined the ICCA Bureau in 2009, worked closely with Marike Paulsson to hone plans for this new organisation, hoping to reach a broader and younger audience than the then ICCA Council, and at the same time bringing much-needed vigour into the ‘old’ ICCA. The launch of Young ICCA at Rio 2010 became one of the pillars of the ‘new’ ICCA that was subsequently launched at the following ICCA Congress in Singapore in 2012. ICCA today has a broad membership-based structure and a truly global reach, as well as a steadfast commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion.


While Young ICCA entered a crowded field of several other ‘below-40’ arbitration groups, these groups mainly focused on networking. Young ICCA sought to inject something new into the field –the opportunity to access the more immediate and practical training that many entry-level practitioners need in what is an extremely competitive field of law. Klaus Reichert and Tim Foden (later respectively a member of the ICCA Governing Board and a Young ICCA co-chair) played key roles in launching the workshop programme, holding the first workshop at ICCA’s 50th birthday celebrations in Geneva in 2011. With training, mentorship and diversity at the heart of its ethos, Young ICCA evolved to focus on the following four areas: skills training workshops, the Young ICCA Mentoring Programme, the Young ICCA Scholarships and the Young ICCA Blog.


Education in Practice

Young ICCA’s slogan, “opening the doors of international arbitration,” is not only linked to the sharing of knowledge, but also to the fight against exclusion. Marike Paulsson recalls that other ‘below-40’ arbitration groups active at the time of Young ICCA’s inception often targeted those lawyers already practising in prestigious Western law firms. “For many students and young lawyers in developing regions, it was close to impossible to get into these [programmes],” she remembers. “So we decided to start at the beginning: education in practice. Combined with the Mentoring Programme, this allowed us to create bridges with developing regions and support burgeoning lawyers around the world.” The slogan itself was borrowed from Lise Bosman’s own background, in the anti-apartheid movement of the 1990s in South Africa. The excitement in the room during the first Young ICCA-hosted event at the close of the ICCA Congress in Rio was tangible –and with its mission in mind, Young ICCA has never looked back.


The First of its Kind: Young ICCA Mentoring Programme

Building on the skills training workshops, the Young ICCA Mentoring Programme was created to provide an avenue for young practitioners across the world to connect with and receive guidance from established practitioners for a full two years. This gave these young lawyers time to develop a relationship and explore new ideas with their mentor. Although the idea of mentorship is not unique to the field of arbitration, the founding Young ICCA co-chairs sought to use the programme to create multiple learning opportunities between practitioners with varying levels of experience and backgrounds. This was achieved by introducing a ‘buddy’, a mid-level practitioner acting as a bridge between mentors and mentees (an idea that originated in a brainstorm session with colleagues at the PCA, including Judith Levine) and encouraging peer-to-peer learning within the mentoring groups. Mentors continue to be drawn from the ranks of the ICCA Governing Board.


Opening the Doors of International Arbitration 

At the time of Young ICCA’s launch, founding co-chair Marike Paulsson was based at the University of Miami and worked with Dean White to establish the first full-tuition Young ICCA scholarship to the University’s School of Law. Young ICCA now offers three full-tuition scholarships for Young ICCA Members wishing to pursue an LL.M at the University of Miami School of Law; the MIDS in Geneva; and Tsinghua Law School in Beijing. As the field of international arbitration becomes increasingly popular and competitive, these Young ICCA Scholarships help to make the community more inclusive by creating entry opportunities for young practitioners from around the world.


Meanwhile, the Young ICCA Blog stemmed from the application requirements of the Young ICCA Scholarship to the University of Miami – a written essay of no less than 2,000 words – which inspired Young ICCA’s founding co-chairs to create a forum for young practitioners to share and promote their work with the international arbitration community. Today, the Young ICCA Blog’s monthly posts are available on both the Young ICCA and the KluwerArbitration websites, and are enjoyed by the entire Young ICCA and ICCA memberships, with articles covering topics as diverse as the looming aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lived experience of young female practitioners breaking into the world of international arbitration.


Looking to the Future

In just ten years, Young ICCA has grown from a few hundred members to 7,200 strong. “I think Young ICCA’s focus on a few key areas and on delivering quality programmes within those key areas gave it a focus that subsequent co-chairs have built on brilliantly,” says Lise Bosman. “I am amazed by the dedication and focus that successive groups of co-chairs have put into the organisation, and truly impressed by its growth.”


However, the road ahead for Young ICCA is not without its challenges. The focus on advancing lawyers of diverse regional and ethnic backgrounds must be at the foreground of the organisation’s activities. Marike Paulsson is particularly concerned about the situation of African American lawyers in the US. “It is important for all stakeholders to join forces,” says Paulsson. “Young ICCA needs to fight for diversity within the system, especially ISDS. We need to show that the progress we have made is an upward path –we’re almost there, don’t give up.”


The founding Young ICCA co-chairs urge current Young ICCA Members and current and future office-holders to keep it focused, keep it practical, and continue to open the doors of international arbitration to others. As Eduardo Damião Gonzalvez remarks: “this is a work in progress – subsequent Young ICCA co-chairs and members have made it successful and should continue to carry it forward.” What will we achieve over the next decade?