Report: First Annual Harvard International Arbitration Conference at Harvard Law School

9 - 10 April 2015

Post Event Report

Report written by Angelica Huacuja Garcia, Marija Sobat, Valeria Tiffer, Agnieszka Zarowna and Juliana de Valdenebro.

On Friday, April 10, 2015, the Harvard International Arbitration Law Students Association (HIALSA), in cooperation with Young ICCA, organized the First Annual Harvard International Arbitration Conference at Harvard Law School to discuss the Intersections between Commercial and Investment Arbitration. Approximately 70 students and young arbitration practitioners attended this event, which was launched by HIALSA to provide a forum to exchange ideas between academics and practitioners; students and experienced arbitration users.


Assistant Professor Mark Wu opened the conference and thanked HIALSA's founders for the initiative in creating the association and for promoting international arbitration at Harvard Law School. The conference consisted of a keynote speech and three panels, with distinguished scholars and practitioners in each panel. The participation of leading specialists in the field ensured that the discussions were well-rounded, covering both examples from real-life practice, as well as the underlying theories and doctrines of international arbitration.


Professor Zachary Douglas QC, Professor of International Law at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, delivered the keynote speech addressing the international delict known as a denial of justice. He argued that a purely procedural approach to denial of justice is “unsustainable as a matter of principle”. Accordingly, he argued that a theory of procedural rights must be linked to a substantive outcome to guarantee its application. In deconstructing the delict of denial of justice, he highlighted and explained the difference between the “local remedies rule” and the “finality rule”. Mr. Douglas also relied on Fuller's insights relating to the essential characteristics of adjudication. In this respect, he concluded that a denial of justice can be committed by an organ or a State official that has committed itself to a process of adjudication.


The keynote speech was followed by the First Panel which discussed "Differences and Similarities in Arbitration Regimes: Implications for Commercial and Investment Arbitration". The panelists included William Park (Boston University), Dan Gonzalez (Hogan Lovells) and Grant Hanessian (Baker & McKenzie). Dan Gonzalez opened the panel's discussion by narrowing the question on what makes any arbitration successful. William Park then discussed the differences between the two regimes and highlighted the weight of the State as a sovereign and discussed how that could make a difference during proceedings. Grant Hanessian then closed the panel by discussing general aspects of international arbitration concluding that there are never two identical cases.


The Second Panel on "Illegality Issues in Investment and Commercial Arbitration" consisted of distinguished practitioners Oliver Armas (Hogan Lovells), Mark Beckett (Chadbourne & Parke), and Fernando Mantilla-Serrano (Latham & Watkins). The panel's discussion focused on issues of corruption in International Arbitration. Oliver Armas elaborated on various forms that corruption may take in the arbitral proceeding and the different ways in addressing those issues. Further, Mr. Armas discussed the consequences of an award finding corruption and whether those consequences are fair for the investor. Mark Becket then followed on the applicable standard of proof when dealing with allegations of corruption and analyzed whether shifting the burden of proof is a fair approach. Fernando Mantilla-Serrano closed the panel's discussion by examining several cases in which one of the parties made allegations of corruption, particularly focusing on how the tribunal handled those allegations.


The Third Panel on "Alternative Means of Enforcement: Enforcing Commercial Arbitration Awards through Investment Arbitration" comprised renowned arbitration practitioners: Rocio Digon (International Chamber of Commerce), James Hosking (Chaffetz Lindsey LLP), Brian King (Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer), and Ian Laird (Crowell Moring). The Panel opened with an analysis by Rocio Digon of the statistics on the enforceability of arbitral awards. Ms Digon focused on the most notable investment arbitration cases which had been commenced only after attempts at enforcing prior commercial arbitral awards arising from a similar factual nucleus had proven unsuccessful. James Hosking, Brian King, and Ian Liard followed up with a discussion of what constitutes alternative means of enforcement and of the challenges and potential issues of enforcing commercial arbitral awards through investment arbitration, including the issue of whether an arbitral award can itself be defined as an investment. Mark D. Beckett, HIALSA's Faculty Advisor, delivered the closing remarks wishing for the Harvard International Arbitration Conference to become an annual event.


On the eve of the conference, on Thursday April 9th, in collaboration with Young ICCA a panel of junior practitioners spoke to Harvard Law School J.D. and LL.M. students about the paths to a career in international arbitration. The speakers included: Maria de la Colina (The Graduate Institute Geneva), Jennifer Glasser (White & Case LLP), David Kavanagh (Fried Frank LLP), and Quinn Smith (Gomm & Smith).


The event was generously sponsored by leading firms Baker & McKenzie LLP, Chadbourne & Parke LLP, Crowell & Moring LLP, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, Hogan Lovells US LLP, and Shearman & Sterling LLP. Besides Young ICCA, which co-organized the HIAC conference, other media sponsors were TDM, ICDR Y&I, PVYIAP. The conference was followed by a cocktail reception, where the participants and speakers continued their discussions pertaining to the topics touched upon throughout the day.


The organizers of the conference were the founding members of HIALSA – Angélica HuacujaZain JinnahMarija Sobat, Valeria Tiffer and Juliana de Valdenebro – and Agnieszka ZarownaKartikey Mahajan and Mina Morova.

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