Young ICCA Skills Training Workshop: Getting Into and Getting Ahead in International Arbitration

18 October 2014

Post Event Report


By Jeremy Bloomenthal, City-Yuwa Partners



On 18 October 2014, Young ICCA held a workshop in Tokyo, Japan together with the International Centre for Dispute Resolution’s young arbitration practitioner group, ICDR Young & International.  Approximately forty young professionals and students came together at the offices of Nishimura & Asahi.  The event coincided with the beginning of the International Bar Association’s Annual Conference.  The program saw a prominent faculty address three main topics as follows:


Introduction by Moderator

Wendy Miles - Partner, Boies, Schiller & Flexner


Topic 1 - Getting into International Arbitration

Elaine Wong - Senior Associate, Herbert Smith Freehills

David MacArthur - Partner, Bae, Kim & Lee


Topic 2 - Getting a Grip on International Arbitration

Yutaro Kawabata - Senior Associate, Nishimura & Asahi

Nicholas Lingard - Senior Associate, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer


Topic 3 - Getting Ahead in International Arbitration

Yoshimi Ohara - Partner, Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu

Helena Chen - Partner, Pinsent Masons



Participants and faculty were seated in a circle as if for a fireside chat.  After a warm welcome and opening remarks by the organizers of the event, Wendy Miles kicked off the workshop, recounting how her earlier studies in public international law and her worldly adventures led to being hired by Gary Born and becoming instantly immersed in the field of international arbitration. 


The discussion corresponded roughly to the sequence of the three topics above, which were illustrated by numerous concrete examples, personal anecdotes, and down-to-earth advice from faculty and participants alike.  Many useful lessons could be distilled from the dialogue.


On “getting into” and “getting a grip on” arbitration:


  • In light of the rapid growth of arbitration, getting into the field may involve a more deliberate or more structured approach than in the past.  There are many avenues to pursue: mooting competitions, internships, and LL.M. programs, among others.  Moving abroad can sometimes open doors.
  • Don’t market yourself only to the premier international firms as there are strong regional practices in certain countries where you might find attractive opportunities.
  • Utilize what makes you unique.  Whether it is the ability to explain common law concepts to civil law lawyers, knowledge of an industry, or proficiency in a foreign language, be confident in knowing that you bring something unique to the table.
  • Be tenacious, but patient.  Not everything can be achieved in this field all at once.
  • Having litigation skills can be a strong starting point, as most of the skills translate directly into an arbitration setting, although the practices may differ. 


On “getting ahead” in arbitration:


  • Be proactive.  Think three steps ahead of the more senior lawyers you are working for, which will help make them (and you) look good before the client.
  • Think flexibly, and be creative.  For example, think outside your usual legal frame of reference – whether civil or common law.  One of the attractions of international arbitration is that you can adapt solutions from legal systems not your own.
  • Become the expert on the facts of a case.  Knowing and scrutinizing the factual details can be critical to the case’s outcome, and you might be the only one realistically in a position to identify such details.
  • You might find yourself all alone practicing in this field in the particular firm, or even jurisdiction, where you work.  Seek mentors outside, for example with Young ICCA’s mentoring program.
  • To be a good associate, honesty is very important.  When a partner asks you a question regarding basic facts that you should have been familiar with (but you have no clear memory about), you will have to ask the partner for ten minutes to verify before answering the question.  This honesty may save the whole team.



Wendy Miles delivered further remarks to conclude the workshop, and participants expressed their gratitude to the faculty for conveying such interesting, personal stories.


The workshop was followed by a networking event at a Japanese restaurant where approximately thirty people continued the conversation over drinks and a selection of Japanese foods.  Later into the evening, a smaller group continued bonding over songs at a Japanese-style karaoke in one of Tokyo’s most “happening” districts, Roppongi.  The evening ended with a traditional Ippon-jime (a Japanese custom celebrating the success of an event by participants clapping their hands), and participants expressing their hope to meet again in the near future.


Generous support for the workshop was provided by, in alphabetical order, Baker & McKenzie, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, the Japan Commercial Arbitration Association, Nishimura & Asahi, and White & Case as Platinum Sponsors, and the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre and Hughes Hubbard & Reed as Silver Sponsors. 

Interested in receiving event updates?

Sign up for Young ICCA Membership to receive email updates on all Young ICCA events and workshops.