1. Hi Ulrich, would you mind recalling us briefly your background?
I am from Austria and I studied law at the University of Vienna. Soon after graduation, I joined the arbitration department of WilmerHale in London, first as an intern and then as a Visiting Foreign Lawyer. After a while, I learned about a Deputy Counsel position being available in the German-speaking case administration team at the Secretariat of the ICC International Court of Arbitration.
I had already known the team from a previous internship that I had done at the ICC while still at University. I got the job and subsequently worked at the ICC as a Deputy Counsel. After two
years, I decided that it was time to move on and I accepted an offer to join Kellogg School of
Management in Chicago as Visiting Scholar. For a semester, I worked and researched at their
Dispute Resolution Research Center, where I completed the Negotiation and Mediation Research
and Teaching Certificate program. After touring through Asia for a couple of weeks and teaching
negotiation to students there, I returned to Vienna to join a local law firm. And just recently, I returned to Paris again to replace my former boss at the ICC during her temporary leave. Hence, since October, I am Counsel of the German-speaking case administration team at the ICC.
2. What does the work of counsel at ICC consist of?
As Counsel, I am responsible for managing one of the case management teams at the Secretariat. Each case management team consists of one Counsel and a varying number of Deputy Counsel and assistants.
The German-speaking case management team, of which I am part of, consists of three Deputy Counsel (two from Germany and one from Iceland), three assistants and me as Counsel. Together, we are responsible for the day-to-day management of the cases that are assigned to our team. At any given point in time, we administer around 200 arbitrations, which are largely connected to Germany, Austria and Switzerland as well as to the Nordic countries. As a team, we correspond with parties and arbitral tribunals and brief the ICC Court on decisions that it is required to take. Our work includes processing and notifying Requests for Arbitration, constituting the arbitral tribunal, monitoring the financial aspect of the arbitrations and scrutinizing awards. In particular, as Counsel, I read and prepare comments on every draft award that is submitted in our cases. This constitutes the first level of the scrutiny process that every ICC award goes through.
3. What are the benefits of working in an arbitration institution compared to other professions in arbitration?
Working at an arbitral institution provides young professionals with a unique opportunity to gain an insight in and a broad overview of many different aspects of international arbitration. For example, a Deputy Counsel at the ICC usually administers between 60 and 80 arbitrations at
any given point in time. To date, during my time as both Deputy Counsel and Counsel, I have administered a total of about 300 arbitrations. While this entails that you do not know every single case in as great depth and detail as you would as a lawyer working on the case in a law firm, you get a broad exposure to many different industry sectors and to many different aspects and procedural problems that may arise in an arbitration. Even experienced practitioners often have not seen as many cases as a Deputy Counsel or Counsel during his or her time at the ICC.
Furthermore, especially if you are a young practitioner in the early stage of your career, working in an arbitral institution like the ICC entails that you have a lot of responsibility and exposure – usually more so than as a young associate in a law firm.
4. We have remarked that you are very engaged in promoting mediation & negotiation, how does that correlate with your passion for arbitration?
I think that the theory and practice of conflict resolution in general and of arbitration in particular plays an important role in our society.
First, as William Ury (co-author of the book “Getting to yes”) famously said: “Conflict is inevitable; violence is not”. Conflicts are inevitably part of our life. Negotiation, mediation and arbitration are ways of resolving such conflicts efficiently and peacefully. As such, their importance for the peaceful functioning of our society cannot be overestimated. While parties can resolve most conflicts directly through negotiation or mediation, in some cases, they need to resort to a neutral third who decides the dispute for them. Therefore, while working in the field of arbitration, I also teach negotiation at different universities and it is my goal to promote arbitration, negotiation and mediation as tools for efficient conflict resolution.
Second, I believe that arbitration plays a vital role in facilitating world trade and that arbitration thereby even contributes to world peace. Going back to Montesquieu’s work “L’esprit des lois”, generations of liberal philosophers and economists have discussed the positive effect commerce has on societies and peace. I line with such ideas, I am convinced that international trade is essential not only for generating wealth, but also for securing peace. But international trade can only thrive where businesses can resort to a neutral forum to resolve their disputes in an efficient and effective manner. State courts usually fail to provide such forum, especially in the context of cross-boarder disputes. By working at the ICC International Court of Arbitration, I can provide businesses with such a neutral forum and thereby contribute to the ICC’s founding vision of achieving world peace through world trade.
Against such background, I view negotiation, mediation and arbitration simply as different means to the same end: peace and the efficient resolution of conflicts.
5. Do you have any tips for young people who want to start their arbitration career?
First, as a very general remark, I would advise that you should only pursue a career in
international arbitration if you are truly passionate about it. Being an arbitration practitioner, whether it be at an arbitral institution, a law firm or in academia, requires a lot of commitment, time and energy. It requires you to say “no” to many other things and if you want to excel at it while staying healthy and happy, you need a passion for what you do.
Second, do more than just studying and achieving good grades. Pursue extracurricular activities to broaden your horizon and to complement your academic curriculum. Attend conferences, job fairs and arbitration events to get exposure. If you have the opportunity to participate in the Vis Moot, do it. Stay for the after-conference drinks and be sociable. The world of international arbitration is full of interesting people – get to know them.
Third, when you have secured an internship or your first job, do your best and always go the extra mile. Don’t get frustrated by rejections in the application process.Remember that all you need is one opportunity to excel – and if you do well in any given internship or job, this can trigger a chain reaction of positive events that may shape your career.