Grant Hanessian

Hanessian ADR, LLC

465 First Street, Brooklyn
11215, New York, USA


Peers and clients say:

"Grant is undoubtedly a top name in NY international arbitration"
"He is a highly experienced arbitrator and a thoughtful leader in the field"
"It is a pleasure to work with Grant on arbitral tribunals"


Grant Hanessian is an independent arbitrator and adjunct professor at Fordham University School of Law in New York. He is former co-chair of Baker McKenzie’s global international arbitration practice, US member of the ICC International Court of Arbitration and author or editor of several books on international arbitration subjects, including ICDR Awards and Commentaries. Mr Hanessian has more than 30 years’ experience as arbitrator and counsel in disputes concerning investment treaty, energy, construction, financial services, intellectual property and other matters.

Why did you decide to establish a practice as independent arbitrator?

I tremendously enjoyed my time at Baker McKenzie, working with talented colleagues around the world on interesting cases. But, understandably, parties and institutions increasingly seek to appoint independent arbitrators to minimise the risk of challenges and I did not believe that I could focus on work as an arbitrator with the conflicts of one of the world’s largest law firms. There does seem to be a need for more independent arbitrators with substantial experience in complex cases, and I’ve been fortunate to have received appointments in the first months of my “independence”.

Out of commercial arbitrations and investor-state cases, which do you prefer and why?

For more than 30 years, a substantial part of my counsel work concerned arbitrations involving states and state entities, including cases arising under investment treaties and concession agreements of various kinds. I enjoy the public international law aspects of these cases but also appreciate that ISDS systems will continue to evolve. Many critiques of the “legitimacy” of investor-state arbitration apply with equal force to commercial cases, particularly those involving industries with substantial societal and environmental impact (eg, extractive industries, pharma). Arbitral institutions are of course attentive to these concerns: in both investor-state and commercial arbitration there are significant movements towards more transparency and improved panel representation by persons historically underrepresented. However investment treaty arbitration may evolve, parties to international contracts will always want an alternative to the national courts of their counterparties. I do think that there is a need for more technical and financial support to enable less developed countries to defend, and potentially avoid, some of these claims, particularly given the increased availability of third-party funding for claimants.

How does your role as a professor enhance your work in private practice?

At Fordham University School of Law in New York I teach two classes: a doctrinal course in international commercial arbitration and a “practicum” in which students simulate counsel work in an international commercial and investor-state arbitrations. International arbitration is a dynamic subject and students in both classes prepare and argue “hot topics” of the day, which keeps me current with new developments. Fordham has many excellent international LLM students specialising in dispute resolution, and it is helpful in my work as an arbitrator that I am constantly reminded of differences in the cultural and legal backgrounds of lawyers in the field.

What do clients look for when selecting an arbitrator?

Parties and counsel want arbitrators who will efficiently manage the proceedings, have familiarity with the relevant industry and legal theories, and will do the work necessary to understand the parties’ arguments and fairly decide the case. Everyone prefers to work with arbitrators who are respectful and considerate of counsel and the parties, and who seek quick, practical and effective resolution of procedura disputes that inevitably arise during a typical arbitration proceeding.

What advice would you give to young lawyers starting out in arbitration today?

Work hard, make your own luck: seek out opportunities to write and otherwise contribute in the field. There are many international arbitration groups sponsored by bar associations, arbitral institutions and other professional organisations in which younger lawyers can contribute and make themselves known. Appointments (as arbitrator and tribunal secretary) and speaking engagements often of course result from personal relationships. It has been more challenging these past two years to initiate and maintain relationships, but younger lawyers should always continue to reach out to more experienced lawyers. Many experienced colleagues are happy to mentor and advise younger lawyers, and I’ve always done a lot of that.