You are an academic, barrister, arbitrator and mediator with extensive experience in international dispute resolution. What inspired you to enter the profession in the first place?
In January 2004, I moved to London to study for my PhD at the Queen Mary University of London. During my study at the Centre for Commercial Law Studies (CCLS), I attended many lectures on international commercial and investment arbitration by many renowned arbitration practitioners and specialists, including especially Professor Julian Lew QC and Professor Loukas Mistelis.
Having been called to the Bar of England and Wales in 2005, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Neil Kaplan CBE SBS QC by Professor Loukas Mistelis, one of my PhD supervisors at the Queen Mary University of London in 2006. I was subsequently offered the role as Neil’s legal assistant and embarked on an enjoyable and inspiring apprenticeship at his office in the Cotswolds. After that I joined Skadden as an Associate in the London office in 2008. There I worked with international litigation and arbitration partner Karyl Nairn QC.
I left Skadden and relocated to Hong Kong in 2009. Since then I have been a full-time academic at the City University of Hong Kong, and I have the good fortune of working closely with Professor Guiguo Wang, Justice Exiang Wan, Professor Yongwei Huang, Dr. Michael Hwang SC, Professor Gary Born, Professor Neil Andrews, Professor Ingeborg Schwenzer, and Professor Michael Bridge, among many other leading scholars in the areas of Chinese law and Chinese legal systems, international arbitration, international contracts, conflict of laws, civil procedure and dispute resolution.
All of these mentors and experts whose work I admire have inspired me to enter into the profession and they still most generously continue to support me to pursue and develop a career in international arbitration.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your practice?
Having worked for some of the best arbitrators, practitioners and scholars in the field in the West and having researched and taught international and Chinese arbitration and commercial law for the last seven years in the East, I found the combination of academic pursuit and practice as an arbitrator and mediator the most rewarding aspect of my work.
International arbitration is a highly practical and practice-oriented subject. It cannot be taught purely on the basis of abstract legal theories. To produce meaningful and quality research output in this area, one must demonstrate substantial understanding of not only relevant legal theories and principles, but also pervasive issues arising from contemporary and international practices across the globe.
I thoroughly enjoy and benefit from the interactions between my teaching and research in contract law, commercial law, civil procedure, private international law, and public international law, with an international and comparative outlook on one hand; and my working knowledge and understanding in the three legal systems, namely English common law, Mainland Chinese law and Hong Kong law, with my practice as an arbitrator and mediator on the other hand.
Tell us more about your route to Fellowship with the CIArb. What are the benefits?
I took the Accelerated Route to Fellowship course in Singapore and the Award Writing Exam in Hong Kong. For me the greatest reward for doing so is the opportunity to meet like-minded people in different jurisdictions. I still maintain good working relationships with some of the tutors, examiners and classmates who I met during the process, including leading international arbitration practitioners in the region such as Francis Xavier SC, Paul Sandosham, Oommen Mathew, and Paul Barrett, to name just a few.
Can you share with us your insight into overcoming obstacles in a male-dominated profession?
Well, that is a tough question. I think one of the challenges faced by women who speak their mind directly is that they can be easily perceived as being aggressive or pushy. I like to think that parties and arbitration institutions appoint me as arbitrator or mediator, not because I am a woman or a Chinese, but because of my expertise and because they trust me that I will focus on what I know needs to be done, doing what’s fair and right, and doing it to the best of my ability.
What do you think are the challenges facing the field of ADR currently?
Let me quote a great master of arbitration, René David, who wrote: ‘arbitration will hardly be regarded by a party as a suitable way of solving the case if it is to be administered by an arbitrator who is imbued with the ways of thinking and the prejudices of another culture’.
Another great master of arbitration, Pierre Lalive wrote: ‘in the case of an international dispute, the arbitration also must be ‘international’, which does imply, as a general rule, that it must take place preferably in a third, neutral country (‘neutral’ in relation to both parties), before an ‘international’ panel of arbitrators, ie, including arbitrators of different nationalities and backgrounds, and this is not enough, for it should preferably be argued by an ‘international’ team of lawyers or at least international-minded and trained lawyers.’
Based on these two masters’ as well as many other leading scholars and practitioners’ wisdoms, I believe diversity and flexibility remains the key to the further development and continuing success of the practice of ADR internationally.
Any advice for budding young arbitrators and mediators?
I certainly still consider myself a budding young arbitrator and mediator!
Let me share with you the advice given by Professor Sibao Shen, who famously wrote ‘The truth of law lies in its practice.’
Also, practice makes perfect!
You are also Director of the International Dispute Resolution Academy. Could you tell us more about that?
The International Dispute Resolution Academy (IDRA) is a new initiative. It is dedicated to serving diverse learners from across the globe. The Academy provides access to intellectual, cultural, and educational resources in the areas of international contracts (including commercial contracts and treaties) and dispute resolution (including commercial and investment arbitration, mediation and other ADR processes, and issues arising out of global compliances and investigations).
Dr. Michael Hwang SC is the Founding President of the IDRA, Gary Born serves as the Founding Chair of the Faculty and Professor Jingxia Shi is the Founding Chair of the IDRA Beijing Centre. Other honorary and founding faculty members include Professor Neil Andrews, Peter Scott Caldwell, Peter R. Day, Steven Finizio, Anthony Houghton SC, Albert Monichino QC, Professor Dr. Maxi Scherer, Professor Ingeborg Schwenzer, Professor Guigo Wang and Ariel Ye.
I currently serve as the Director of the Academy. I am supported by a team of experts as Fellows of the Academy, including Andrew Aglionby, Philip Bambagiotti, Chiann Bao, Louise Barrington, Olga Boltenko, Timothy D. Castle, Dr. Helena Chen, Edward Chow Lap San, Peter Chow, Caroline Duclercq, Rajiv Dutta, Sir Bernard Eder, Jose Ricardo Feris, David Fong, Ben Giaretta, Aloysius Goh, Professor Michael Hahn, Glenn Haley, Cameron Hassall, Matthew Hodgson, Brenda Horrigan, Timothy Howe QC, William Ong Boon Hwee, Kirit S. Javali, Edmund J Kronenburg, Sophie Lamb, Benoit Le Bars, Arvin W Lee, Nigel Li, Yao Lin, John Litton QC, Rory McAlpine, Jeremy Nicholson QC, Cesar Augusto Guimarães Pereira, Professor Dr. Walter H. Rechberger, Anselmo Reyes SC, Mauricio Gomm Santos, Dr. Patricia Shaughnessy, Matthew Secomb, Dr. Rajesh Sharma, Professor Hi-Taek Shin, Vanina Sucharitkul, Essam Al Tamimi, Thomas Walsh, Romesh Weeramantry, Samuel Chat Chor Wong, William Wong SC, Ing Loong Yang, and Dr. Galina Zukova.
Many more internationally recognised individuals are being invited to join this endeavour and it is anticipated that the team will continue to expand. You can find more information about the Academy on its website: www.idracademy.org