Christopher Newmark is a favourite among peers and clients, who recommend him as “a bright star” and “excellent arbitrator” in the market.
After leaving Baker & McKenzie where he chaired the firm’s European dispute resolution group, Chris has worked as an arbitrator based in London.
Chris was the chairman of the ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR from 2014 to 2017. During his time as chairman, the ICC Commission introduced task forces working on Emergency Arbitration, the Probative Value of Witness Evidence and on Climate Change disputes, and published reports on Decisions on Costs and on Financial Institutions and Arbitration. He recently co-chaired the ICC Commission task force on ADR, continuing his career long efforts to increase access to ADR processes during arbitration proceedings.
What attracted you to a career in international arbitration?
I have always enjoyed the multi-cultural environment, with parties, lawyers and arbitrators from different jurisdictions. And the ability to tailor-make procedure for each case has major advantages over litigation.
What qualities make for a successful arbitrator?
Integrity, diligence, an open mind and a diary without too many competing commitments.
How has the market developed since you first started practising?
Over the last 20 years, arbitration practitioners have realised that they need to improve their product if it is to continue to thrive. There have been a huge number of initiatives in this respect, some more successful than others. It will always be a work in progress.
To what extent is arbitral discretion limited by due process?
Not adversely in my experience. A skillful arbitrator will be able to exercise their discretion to achieve a fair outcome whilst observing due process.
Can force majeure claims arising from the coronavirus pandemic still be brought in the near future or has the ship sailed on such claims?
This is a very case specific question and I would not rule out the possibility.
Practitioners report a marked increase in international mediation, even when there are arbitration clauses in contracts, due to cash-strapped businesses seeking early settlement. Is there a danger arbitration could take a back seat to mediation?
This is not a danger, it is a desirable development. Parties should have access to mediation and other ADR tools at all times, so that they can settle their cases where that is preferable to proceeding through to an arbitral award. There remains work to be done to increase the facilitation of settlement in the course of arbitration proceedings (and I am involved in that work…..).
In what ways is arbitration becoming greener? Do clients also have a role to play in this transformation?
I am a member of the steering committee of the Campaign for Greener Arbitrations. One of the few upsides of the pandemic was that it showed practitioners how virtual, paperless hearings could work effectively, achieving one of the goals of the campaign. We need to hold on to that positive development and not regress. I would expect clients to welcome the reduced costs that these changes result in and greener dispute resolution should be consistent with their own ESG obligations.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?
To go ahead and take the sabbatical that I have planned for September 2023. I am very much looking forward to coming back refreshed in early 2024.