Colin Ong KC
Dr Colin Ong Legal Services
Suites 2-2 to 2-8, Gadong Properties Centre
BE 4119, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Peers and clients say:
"Colin is consistently well prepared and is a superb cross-examiner"
"He has a deep knowledge of both civil and common law"
"He is exceptionally active in high-profile arbitrations"
Handled over 370 arbitrations as counsel and arbitrator including AAA/BANI/CIETAC/HKIAC/ICC/KLRCA/LCIA/LMAA/MNAC/ PCA/LMAA/LCIA/MNAC/OIC/SCMA/ SIAC/VIAC/WIPO. Civil law professor. Ranked top-30 global arbitration practitioner by Expert Guides: Best-of-the-Best (2017- 2021). 1st ASEAN national practitioner appointed Queen’s Counsel and elected Bencher (Inner Temple). Two publications listed End-note1 in CIArb Practice Guidelines. Chambers and Partners 18 Most-in-Demand Arbitrators (Asia-Pacific).
As an English silk and a civil law disputes specialist in Asia, how do you see the global growth of arbitration affecting your practice?
The majority of my recent arbitration cases have been civil law-based and Asian-based. This continued shift of cases towards Asian seats helps my practice as most of the Asian countries are civil law jurisdictions. The natural ability to think from a civil law perspective coupled with the advocacy skills of an English silk has served me well.
What qualities make a successful arbitrator in today’s environment?
One should ideally have at least 15 years of experience as counsel in arbitration or litigation in order to have adequate experience to make the right judgments in applications made by experienced counsel. One needs to reply to all emails to parties or co-arbitrators within the same day if one is presiding arbitrator. Patience and a good understanding towards the genuine difficulties of counsel are also important qualities.
Sources report that the prominence of third-party funding in arbitration cases is now increasing the scrutiny surrounding award enforceability. How do you think this could impact award enforceability?
Much attention is paid by parties and courts to the integrity and fairness of the arbitration procedure in cases where there are third party funders (TPFs). Allegations of TPFs lack of transparency is often said to lead to possible conflicts of interest involving parties, counsel and arbitrators. Additional transparency is important for the legitimacy of international arbitration as well as for the assured enforceability of arbitral awards.
How have the new ICC rules impacted commercial arbitration practices?
The new ICC rules remind parties of the importance of a carefully drafted arbitration agreement. The new Article 12(9) gives the ICC Court the power to appoint all members of the tribunal when there is unfairness in the parties’ arbitration agreement.
Given your ample experience handling cases under civil law, what particular challenges do younger arbitrators have to be mindful of when undertaking their first case under civil law?
It is the same advice for any aspiring arbitrator. Invest one or two decades as counsel to gain practice experience. The best arbitrators are those who have sufficient experience as counsel. They are more balanced in dealing with practical situations.
You have deep experience as both counsel and arbitrator. How does your experience in each capacity enhance your capabilities in the other?
My many experiences in both capacities have made me a more patient and rounded practitioner. My experiences as counsel allows me to understand the challenges of counsel.
As an advocate, I am able to predict how the tribunal is likely to see the situation and I am better at dealing with the crux of the case and not wasting time on any bad behaviour by opposing counsel.
The current arbitration market is reportedly working with a small pool of arbitrators, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find arbitrators who do not have a conflict of interest. Do you agree, and if so, how can this issue be effectively addressed?
I disagree. There are actually a lot of good arbitrators around especially in Asia. The problem lies in a lack of attention being given to ethnic, geographic and cultural diversity. While the Pledge has done much to assist younger female arbitrators, especially in Asia, there is no equivalent being done to assist Asian arbitrators. Until and unless this is addressed, one will see the lack of appointment of experienced male Asian arbitrators and a continued increase of the appointment of less experienced younger female arbitrators in Asia. Some balance will need to be achieved soon.
How do you juggle leading teams in multiple jurisdictions as lead counsel and sitting in arbitrations across many seats?
I am very disciplined and focused on my work. I am also able to multi-task. The only good end-product of suffering from insomnia is that one gets a lot more things done each day.