Peers and clients say:
"An excellent specialist in international commercial arbitration"
"She's equally skilful as arbitrator and counsel"
"She's very experienced in disputes involving CEE"
Expert in arbitration, M&A, PE and commercial law. Participated in approximately 150 arbitrations (i.a. ICC, SCC, LCIA, VIAC, IAA, SCAI, UNCITRAL, FCC, Lewiatan, KIG, SIDiR, KDPW). Former member of the ICC International Arbitration Court (2015-2021). Member of the SCC Arbitral Council and the IBA Task Force for the Revision of the IBA Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest as well as the Scientific Council of the Institute of Legal Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
What were the key hurdles in pursuing a career in arbitration?
My arbitration career developed in a way that is atypical for today's times, as it was first closely related to my M&A experience, and only became dominated by arbitration over time.
When I started, the arbitration environment was very narrow and closed, it was difficult to break through and build a career, at least compared to the M&A environment. The reasons for that were gender, age, but also relational. It took me much longer to gain experience, knowledge and an established position in arbitration than it did to build a transactional career.
What does exceptional client service look like to you?
First and foremost, professionalism and knowledge. But above all, an understanding of the client's needs, a kind of 'legal empathy'. There is an anecdote: a patient goes to a doctor and asks to have his arm amputated. The ordinary doctor amputates, but the good doctor asks why.
The first thing to do is to understand the client's need and then choose an action that is appropriate to the need and the situation.
You are the founder of GESSEL law firm. What inspired you to start your own law firm?
I was young, self-confident and arrogant. It was 1992, 3 years after the economic and political transformation that had taken place in Poland. The USA law firm I worked for at the time did not have a developed employee policy, a career path for Polish lawyers. And I felt that I had reached the end of the line, that I could achieve no more. At the time, when I was working on a transaction, I was only doing part of it, and I wanted to do the whole thing! So I decided that I wanted to be my own master and commander. I dreamed of having my own place where I functioned in my own way, a law firm where I could come back to after legal battles and recharge my batteries.
What values does GESSEL hold, and how do these impact your work as a firm?
We believe in honesty, decency, creativity and ... friendship.
We are ambitious, we want to be the best at what we do - I think competition is in lawyers' blood - but at the same time we care about each other and the world around us. We have really managed to create a place that is a safe harbour for us. We used to be called behind the backs the hippies of the law because we were out of the box, I really like that term, I think it describes us well.
What key changes do you expect to impact the field of arbitration in the coming years?
I expect a greater impact of technology but also a legal over-regulation, resulting from the constant attempt to improve the rules of conduct by "soft laws".
What have been your proudest achievements while serving as honorary president of the Lewiatan Court of Arbitration?
To be honest, the role of Honorary President is purely a nice gesture, a way of honouring my 'merits' during my term as President. At the time, my main achievement was, to quote one of the rankings, "Beata Gessel has put Poland on the international arbitration scene". It was, in a way, the culmination of the efforts of the entire team that worked at that time to popularise arbitration in Poland, but also to promote Polish arbitration abroad: among other things, we modernised the rules - even before the ICC Court, we introduced the institution of the emergency arbitrator. The first Dispute Resolution in M&A Transactions conference in 2010 was conceived precisely with the aim of bringing Poland closer to the international arbitration community - with great success - the conference has now become a brand of its own.
What advice would you give to young professionals entering the arbitration field?
They need to understand the business. Commercial arbitration is about the business, not the procedure. The procedure is the framework, the essence is to resolve the business disputes, so understanding the business is key.
What are you looking forward to in the future?
I definitely intend to develop my arbitration career further. But I take great pleasure in combining academic work with practice. Arbitration has the great advantage that at almost every step you can come across an interesting legal problem. Recently, the problem that has caught my attention is the issue of justice and application of substantive law by arbitrators. I am currently working on a book on this subject.