Dana MacGrath

MacGrath Arbitration

New York, USA


Peers and clients say:

"Dana is an amazing and committed practitioner"
"She is very attentive to every single issue she deals with"
"She has been extremely supportive of women in international arbitration"
"She is wise, thoughtful, and hardworking"


Dana MacGrath, FCIArb, is an independent arbitrator on the rosters of various arbitral institutions and has served as chair, co-arbitrator, and sole arbitrator in multiple arbitrations. Her unique mix of experience includes serving as an arbitrator, arbitration practitioner, in-house counsel, and professor of law. She obtained degrees from NYU Law School and Middlebury College, is a member of the New York Bar, fluent in English, proficient in French, and based in New York.

Describe your career to date.

I spent two decades developing my advocacy skills and international arbitration experience at several global law firms, including Sullivan & Cromwell, O’Melveny, Allen & Overy, and Sidley. Thereafter, I left private practice as counsel, and worked in arbitration finance at Omni Bridgeway.

While on occasion I served as arbitrator while in private practice, since August 2021 I have been a full-time independent arbitrator, now listed on the rosters of various arbitral institutions. I have served as chair, co-arbitrator, and sole arbitrator in multiple arbitrations over the course of my arbitration career. I have a broad range of experience in arbitrations involving a variety of businesses and industries, among them oil and gas, LNG price reviews, construction, energy, finance, telecommunications, intellectual property (FRAND disputes), life sciences, sale of goods, and international investments.

What do you enjoy most about working in arbitration?

I enjoy resolving disputes involving complex business transactions, providing a more private means for resolving disputes, and handling matters that involve cutting edge issues.

Teaching international arbitration and mentoring the next generation of arbitration lawyers is also gratifying because it enables me to improve the arbitration process.

From your vantage point in the market, in which industries is the arbitration practice growing the quickest and why?

International arbitration is likely to grow in many business sectors and industries, including energy, international business transactions, construction, life sciences, finance, and geopolitical conflicts. This is because recently the arbitration community has made a more deliberate effort to try to make arbitration an optimal dispute resolution mechanism for resolving disputes in these areas.

Why do you think arbitration clauses are becoming increasingly popular in commercial contracts?

Arbitration clauses are increasingly popular because arbitration agreements are enforced under the New York Convention by more than 170 countries. Additionally, arbitration is more time and cost efficient and less public than most national court litigation.

With sanctions regimes becoming an ever more prevalent geopolitical reality, how must arbitration specialists evolve to meet these changes?

It is always important to take into account relevant local, national, and international regimes that may impact an international arbitration.

What are the pros and cons of the increasing boutique-ification of the international arbitration market?

International arbitration boutiques may have less internal know-how in niche substantive areas or experience in prosecuting emergency court applications than would a larger or global law firm. However, boutiques are likely to have seasoned practitioners with advocacy skills and experience well-suited to international arbitration that enable clients to achieve the time and cost efficiency that they seek in choosing arbitration.

For independent arbitrators, working independently avoids the potential appearance of conflicts of interest arising from being part of a large firm. It also requires managing and ideally delegating many administrative aspects of practice (for example creating and managing your website) to ensure that your time is dedicated to substantive arbitrator work.

Why did you decide to set up your own firm? What advice would you give to practitioners considering setting up their own firm?

I launched my independent arbitrator practice to reduce potential conflicts of interest. I would advise practitioners considering a transition to full-time independent arbitrator practice to spend time learning about how to launch an arbitrator practice and taking the key preparatory steps prior to announcing their launch.

You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished? If you could introduce one reform to international arbitration proceedings, what would it be and why?

I would like to expand my independent arbitrator practice and at the same time impart knowledge about international arbitration to students earlier, for example by offering international arbitration courses at the high school level, or launching an international arbitration advocacy moot or essay writing competition for high school students, to pave the way for the future generations to learn about arbitration early on so they can maximize and further advance the procedures and benefits of international arbitration together with achieving greater diversity.

If I could introduce a reform to international arbitration proceedings, I would promote increased use of mediation by adding to any (non-expedited, non-emergency) international arbitration procedural schedule two optional windows for mediation at key inflection points in the case. This would enable arbitration clients to have two opportunities to resolve their disputes earlier and avoid the post-arbitration cost of national court litigation that is often necessary to enforce an award (particularly in highly contentious cases).