1. Hi Antonio, would you mind briefly summarising to us your background?
I studied Law at Universidad Pablo de Olavide (Seville, Spain) and spent two years in local law firms in Seville. Eager to internationalize my career and have the possibility to work abroad, I studied a Master complémentaire en droit international at Université Catholique de Louvain. It was in Louvain, from Prof. Hanotiau, that I first heard of (and learnt about) international arbitration. I immediately realized that I wanted to work in this area of law.
My first experience in international arbitration was through internships in Madrid with Juan Fernández-Armesto (Armesto y Asociados) and Clifford Hendel (Araoz y Rueda). In July 2013, I came to Paris for a six-month internship at Derains & Gharavi. However, shortly after, I had the opportunity to join the ICC as deputy counsel. I spent seven wonderful months at the ICC before joining Dechert as an intern in April 2014, where, few months later, I became an associate. Since then, I have had the chance of working on very interesting and challenging investment and commercial arbitration cases.
2. How did your deputy counsel position at the ICC help your career in arbitration?
Even though it was a short experience, my time at the ICC was extremely rewarding.
First, I acquired direct knowledge of the institution, its internal proceedings and its rules. Having practical knowledge of the inner workings of the ICC allows you to better understand ICC proceedings, anticipate some of the ICC Court’s decisions and, in general, handle ICC cases. I have found that this is highly appreciated both by clients and colleagues.
Second, ICC deputy counsels manage around 75-100 ongoing cases each and are thus required to produce – continuously – a high amount of work in an efficient and rigorous manner. While (or because) the responsibility is considerable and the expectations (in terms of quality and rigour) are very high at the ICC, the learning experience is priceless.
Third, the ICC is probably the best platform for networking and exposure (and not only because of the number of cocktails you are invited to!). Through the ICC, I met a lot of arbitration practitioners both from inside and outside the institution with whom I still have a good personal and professional relation.
3. Why is it interesting for young professionals to act as secretaries to an arbitral tribunal?
Acting as a tribunal secretary greatly enhances your knowledge about arbitration because of the exposure to the arbitrator’s as well as the counsel’s perspectives. Not only do you learn first-hand about what it takes to being a good arbitrator, but you can identify the Dos and Don’ts of advocacy in arbitration, both because (i) you realize by yourself, when you read from a neutral point of view, what is persuasive and what is not, and, most importantly, (ii) you learn what senior arbitrators like and dislike.
If you also work as counsel for parties (which is my case), being a secretary to the tribunal also requires a change of mind-set, which is always enriching and appreciated.
4. How may the fact of being a foreigner in Paris potentially impact a career in arbitration?
I think the impact, if any, would be positive. Considering that arbitration is an international field by definition, foreigners are awarded more or less the same chances as local lawyers (even though it is recommended to speak French and being admitted to a French bar, either directly or – as in my case – through another European bar).
In my case, being a native Spanish-speaker helped me obtain my first professional experiences in Paris. Also, I think that my Spanish education and professional experience match well with teams – such as ours – where diverse background is appreciated.
5. Do you have any tips for young people who want to start their arbitration career?
Students looking for a first internship: Excel at University so that your professors will be
delighted to give you a good referral; use your contacts and, if you do not have them, look for them (for instance, my first interview for an internship in Paris was thanks to an associate that I met at a conference in Madrid); insist on your applications: you may get dozens of “Noes” (as I did) and feel frustrated but, if you insist, you will increase your chances of receiving that first email inviting you for an interview; prepare your applications and interviews thoroughly, be humble and show respect, genuine interest for arbitration and willingness to be of assistance to the team (let your addressees know how you could be useful to their practice).
Interns: Be open to all tasks and opportunities: those working with you will appreciate it and you will get much more out of the internship; be thorough and systematic: to be helpful, your work must be easy to read, well organized, and free of avoidable mistakes (such as typographical errors); make yourself indispensable in your cases: master the facts and documents; be tenacious and patient: if you work hard and well, you will have the opportunity to develop a career in
international arbitration. Thank you for this invitation and congratulations on your project!