On 31 March 2021, two Young ITA Mentorship Groups based in Asia led by Ms. Chiann Bao and Ms. Mariel Dimsey, along with mentorship facilitators, Mr. Cameron Sim and Ms. Anne-Marie Doernenburg respectively, jointly held a virtual fireside chat with Ms. Lucy Reed. Ms. Reed, one of the top international arbitration specialists, independent arbitrator at Arbitration Chambers and President of the ICCA, shared valuable insights and advice with mentees on developing a successful career in international arbitration.
As a U.S. pioneer in international arbitration, Ms. Reed provided insight into her career trajectory. She explained that, while at law school, there were no arbitration courses yet available. Her first main encounter with international arbitration was thus with the Iran-US Claims Tribunal, both in private practice and with the U.S. State Department. Capitalizing on her experience there, puts Ms. Reed at the forefront of the practice of investment treaty arbitration as it developed. Since then, she built her practice with Freshfields in the New York, Hong Kong and Singapore offices.
When asked what skills she considered essential to thrive in international arbitration, Ms. Reed advised young practitioners to build their substantive knowledge of the law, especially of their jurisdiction. This is because arbitration is a procedural skill, akin to litigation in the interpretation and application of law to facts. Furthermore, Ms. Reed emphasized the importance of working on one’s written advocacy to be able to express arguments concisely and with absolute clarity. Equally, oral submissions should be streamlined and focused on helping the tribunal appreciate and understand one’s case.
As for practitioners in jurisdictions where arbitration is less developed, Ms. Reed saw this as an opportunity for such practitioners to become arbitration pioneers. She cited the example of lawyers from such jurisdictions who had gone abroad to work for international law firms for a number of years, before returning to their home jurisdictions to work on international matters as leading counsel through their unique combination of international experience and local legal knowledge. Ms. Reed also stressed the need to be flexible and sensitive to different cultural and legal backgrounds and approaches, in particular when interacting with colleagues, approaching a case, or addressing a tribunal.
Ms. Reed concluded her thoughts with the following key takeaways: while luck does often play a role in one's career, one should train and be prepared to take advantage of opportunities by adopting a "Why Not?" attitude. In particular, young practitioners should hone their international arbitration practice skills while maintaining intellectual curiosity and keeping abreast of contemporary issues. Moreover, Ms. Reed advised to exercise discretion with personal branding; when deciding to write articles or speak at conferences, these should be significant and impactful. Finally, Ms. Reed underlined the importance of networking and helping peers, which she considers as keys to a successful career. She also emphasized the importance of being part of organizations such as the ITA which, in Ms. Reed's case, had connected her with the oil and gas sector and arbitration specialists in the United States.
Ms. Reed's parting advice was to be patient in waiting for arbitrator appointments, as a career covers a long time.
The Young ITA Mentorship Groups in Asia would like to extend their gratitude to Ms. Lucy Reed for taking the time to speak to our mentees.
Ishita Soni, Student, Symbiosis Law School, Pune
Yvonne Mak, Associate, Withers KhattarWong LLP