Young ICCA Webinars: Tips from the Top: An Interview with Ms. Carolyn Lamm

21 July 202019:30 - 20:30(CEST)

Ms. Lamm kindly agreed to participate in a fireside chat and answer questions from Young ICCA members and young practitioners on a series of themes:         


  • Standout international arbitration moments
  • Commercial v. investment arbitration
  • Tips on written and oral advocacy: dos and don’ts
  • How to make a career in international arbitration and in a jurisdiction different from your home jurisdiction.


Post Event Report

by Katie L. Gonzalez* and Lauren (Yonsoo) Kim** 


On 21 July 2020, Young ICCA in conjunction with the Latin American International Arbitration Course (“LAIAC”) hosted a webinar featuring Washington, D.C.-based White & Case partner Carolyn Lamm. Over 230 participants from all four corners of the globe tuned into the Q&A discussion in which Ms. Lamm, who is also a member of the ICCA Governing Board, spoke about her experience as both counsel and arbitrator in a number of groundbreaking international arbitration cases and shared advice for young practitioners. The webinar was moderated by Mr. Orlando Cabrera (Young ICCA Events Coordinator and Associate at Hogan Lovells in Mexico City), Mr. Nicolas Caffo (LAIAC Executive Committee member and Associate at Knoetzl in Vienna) and Mr. Rémi Garros-Quinn (LAIAC Executive Committee member and Legal Officer at the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center in Geneva).


Ms. Lamm recounted stories from her first encounters in the arbitration practice area, noting that she began her career in the United States’ Department of Justice Civil Division before working at White & Case.  Ms. Lamm emphasized that while her role in the Department of Justice was not arbitration-focused, it was in this role where she cultivated many of the legal skills – including oral advocacy skills – that allowed her to more effectively practice as counsel in international arbitrations.  


Ms. Lamm shared her experiences from one of her first arbitration matters as an associate working on AMCO Asia Corporation and others v. Republic of Indonesia (ICSID Case No. ARB/81/1), which is the second-ever ICSID case.  Ms. Lamm spoke about what it was like to be at the forefront of a developing legal framework, and to serve as lead counsel during the annulment proceedings when both parties were working to define – for the first time – the meaning of Article 52 of the ICSID Convention.


Ms. Lamm also discussed some of the professional challenges she has encountered in her career, including, in particular, when serving as counsel on the Fraport AG Frankfurt Airport Services Worldwide v. The Republic of the Philippines (ICSID Case No. ARB/03/25) case.  Ms. Lamm acknowledged that while it was challenging to understand the facts of the case and compile all information into a cohesive narrative, the results of the team’s hard work and efforts were “fantastic.”  


In terms of advice for young practitioners eager to gain experience in international arbitration, Ms. Lamm said that it was crucial for everyone on the team – including more junior associates – to spend the time to develop the evidence and facts of the case, and to test various legal theories before advocating for such positions before the Tribunal.  Ms. Lamm advised on the importance of “always performing with excellence,” and underscored the importance of presenting an analytically strong position and having a well-developed (but realistic) strategy that is determined through close collaboration with the client.  


Ms. Lamm continued to provide advice for young practitioners in international arbitration eager to learn more about how to succeed in the field.  While Ms. Lamm said obtaining qualifications as a lawyer – whether through a J.D. or an LL.M. – is of primary importance, Ms. Lamm also noted that specialized programs for gaining a deeper understanding beyond domestic law or receiving a PhD could be additionally helpful.  Ms. Lamm emphasized the importance of obtaining practical work experience, and discussed the value of working as a secretary for a tribunal or as a case manager for an arbitral institution, as well as participating in arbitration competitions, in order to gain a more well-rounded, diverse experience into various elements of the arbitration practice.


Ms. Lamm also said that understanding international law is predominantly important and the practice of national law can be less significant, depending on the case.  In terms of national law, Ms. Lamm said that she works closely with local counsel and often staffs her teams with lawyers from local jurisdictions, due to the necessity of understanding the nuances of local laws and practices. 


Ms. Lamm also advised that the work of an international arbitration practitioner may not be solely focused on the law, and that lawyers often need to understand the business of their clients.  Ms. Lamm noted that having an economics background or expressing a willingness to learn about the client’s business and the financial impact of cases is especially important, particularly when it comes to working with experts and calculating damages.  Ms. Lamm recognized the challenges that lawyers may face when dealing with damages, but underscored the importance of lawyers being willing to engage with numbers and the financial aspects of a case, as lawyers must be able to test their own expert’s theories and calculations (prior to cross-examination by the opposing party), and similarly must be able to distill such information and present it in a compelling but plain-language way to the Tribunal.  


Ms. Lamm also spoke about her experience as an arbitrator.  In terms of how practitioners working as counsel may transition to an arbitrator role, Ms. Lamm emphasized that excelling in smaller cases before institutions like AAA could help practitioners build a reputation and ultimately be recognized for work in larger, more complex cases.  Ms. Lamm also stated that given the close-knit nature of the arbitration community, it can be helpful to get to know people in various institutions or those who serve as secretaries of tribunals in order to learn of new opportunities for career advancement.


Finally, Ms. Lamm described how she first became involved in ICCA, noting that when she started teaching at Miami Law, she worked with Mr. Jan Paulsson, then-president of ICCA.  Ms. Lamm spoke fondly of her involvement with ICCA, including her work on the Inclusiveness Committee leading the Inter-Institutional Task Force on Gender Diversity and Discrimination in International Arbitration.  Ms. Lamm shared that the task force has been engaging institutions to assess their progress towards the Equal Representation in Arbitration’s pledge to achieve gender parity in the appointment of female arbitrators, and is planning to publish a report on ICCA’s website and Kluwer Arbitration a few days after webinar.


*Katie L. Gonzalez is an associate in the Litigation & Arbitration practice group at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP.  The views expressed in this article reflect those of the author and not necessarily those of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP or any of its clients.

**Lauren (Yonsoo) Kim is an attorney admitted to both the District of Columbia and New York, whose primary areas are International Arbitration and Tax. 

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