150 East 58th Street, 25th Floor
10155, New York, USA
Peers and clients say:
"Eric is extremely fair and attentive to details"
"He is very well prepared and asks all the right questions"
"A leading construction arbitrator"
Eric Schwartz is an American and French international arbitration lawyer. Based in New York, he practises independently as an arbitrator and as an arbitrator member of Fountain Court Chambers in London. Eric was formerly a partner of King & Spalding in Paris and New York and earlier in his career was a Paris-based partner of Freshfields. From 1992-1996 he served as secretary general of the ICC International Court of Arbitration, of which he was a vice-president from 2012-2015. After practicing in Paris, with a brief stint in Brussels, for 34 years, he moved to New York in 2012.
What inspired you to pursue a legal career?
There were no lawyers in my family. My father was a professor of French literature, and I imagined myself following in his footsteps. But then as an impressionable 10-year old, I saw the movie “Inherit the Wind” with the famous American actor Spencer Tracy playing a character based on Clarence Darrow, a famous American lawyer during the first decades of the 20th century, and my interest was piqued. I felt drawn to advocacy and originally thought of myself as a future criminal defence or civil rights lawyer, including during my years in law school, but life ultimately took me to Paris, and, by serendipity, my legal career took a different and unexpected turn.
What did you find most challenging about becoming an arbitrator?
Moving from advocating as counsel on behalf of a party to having to decide as an arbitrator between two well-argued positions initially felt like the greatest challenge. Without wishing to understate in any way the nature and extent of that challenge, and the weight of the responsibility that the parties have conferred on the arbitrator to “get it right”, as time goes on, I often think, particularly in very contentious cases where the parties have wildly differing views about how an arbitration should be conducted, that the greater challenge may arise out of the demands placed on an arbitrator to manage cases effectively and efficiently and in a manner that will retain the parties’ trust in the fairness and efficacy of the process.
What do clients look for in an effective arbitrator?
Availability, responsiveness and timeliness, thorough preparation (knowing the case) and a sharp mind.
In what ways have you noticed tribunals becoming more sophisticated and entertaining a greater variety of techniques in proceedings?
There are at least three observations that I would make. The first and most obvious is that, like everyone else, tribunals have been required to become much more technologically savvy than they once were and to think about how technology can more effectively be deployed at every stage of the proceedings, while at the same time becoming fluent in the language of cybersecurity. Second, in increasing the frequency of case management conferences during the proceedings to try to reduce or resolve differences between the parties in respect of such matters as document production or other procedural applications. Third, in the management of expert witnesses, with the aspirational aim of ensuring that their evidence will be of as much assistance to the tribunal as possible and that the experts will be working from common sets of assumptions and data.
What green arbitration trends are currently prevalent in the market?
Arbitrations have been becoming increasingly paperless for a long time now, and only recently we are even seeing hard copy originals of awards gradually being replaced by electronic “originals”, with the parties’ agreement and subject to mandatory laws to the contrary. Of course, during covid-19 times, the virtual hearing became commonplace, and I am among those who consider the conduct of virtual or at least hybrid hearings to be a very positive, green and cost-effective development, with the management of time zone differences usually being the biggest issue (except possibly where certain participants do not have access to the necessary technical infrastructure, which can be an even bigger issue). Although parties appear to prefer in-person hearings whenever they have a choice, I believe that, over time, this is likely to change. Virtual hearing technology (and advocacy) will only get better and better, and, in my view, the much-vaunted advantage of being able to “read a room” when meeting in person is overstated, at least in most cases.
More and more practitioners are leaving firms to set up their own arbitration boutiques. What are the main drivers for this in your experience?
There may be several factors, but typically two main ones: (i) the avoidance or reduction of conflicts of interest; and (ii) the desire of many of these practitioners to be able to sit more frequently (or possibly even exclusively) as arbitrators, an activity that many firms (especially the larger ones) discourage because it is less lucrative than counsel work, which permits teams of lawyers to be deployed, while it creates potential conflicts for the rest of the firm.
As an independent practitioner, what are your main priorities for Schwartz Arbitration’s development over the next couple of years?
My practice is devoted exclusively to my personal work as an arbitrator, so its development is constrained by the amount of work that I can take on. As those who sit with me know, I do not generally use an administrative secretary, so that will limit how much I can do.
You have enjoyed an illustrious career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
To produce an award without a typo! More seriously, simply to be the best arbitrator that I can be. Every arbitration represents a new challenge, a new mountain to climb. All that I aspire to at this stage is conducting the new one better than the last, with the benefit of lessons learned, and getting it right.