Louis B Kimmelman

Kimmelman Arbitration

1348 Lexington Avenue
10128, New York, USA


Peers and clients say:

"Louis is exceptionally smart"
He is a deep thinker who is a very effective arbitrator and highly respected”
"He is dedicated and very knowledgeable"


Louis B Kimmelman is an independent arbitrator and New York qualified lawyer with over 40 years of experience in resolving international commercial, construction and investor-state disputes. He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (FCIArb). Prior to January 2021, he was a partner of Sidley Austin LLP in New York. Mr Kimmelman is chair of the New York International Arbitration Center (NYIAC) and co-chair of the Fordham International Arbitration and Mediation Conference.

What inspired your choice of international arbitration as a field of practice and what do you enjoy most about international arbitration?

I was attracted to international arbitration for several reasons. First, the people in this field are special. They are fascinating and engaging and diverse. They come from different countries and cultures; they are sensitive to languages and the importance of words; they are interested in events around the world and in people everywhere. Second, the work is always challenging. Every case involves new issues and problems and constantly invites creativity. Third, the practice is dynamic and always changing. It provides parties and counsel with opportunities to craft their own dispute resolution process. This is what drew me to the practice initially and has continued to keep me fully engaged ever since.

What steps can younger arbitration practitioners take to improve their chances of getting appointments? Is there an important role to play here for experienced lawyers?

There are several ways to acquire and demonstrate the skills that are needed to become a successful arbitrator and arbitration practitioner. Every arbitral institution has a young practitioner group that seeks aspiring arbitrators and practitioners to contribute to its programing and events. Every arbitration publication looks for contributors who can provide current updates on global developments as well as topical articles. Every arbitration committee and organisation seeks the active participation of younger practitioners. These opportunities to contribute to the field and work with other practitioners are important in developing expertise and a reputation. They are also important in developing relationships. Relationships are a precious asset to arbitration practitioners. Ultimately, they are helpful in receiving appointments. Relationships with more experienced practitioners can be particularly valuable because they may lead to mentoring opportunities. More experienced arbitrators have a special role to play as mentors in helping the next generation of arbitrators and arbitration practitioners.

If you could implement one reform in international arbitration, what would it be?

It is time that all arbitral institutions that provide for an emergency arbitrator in their rules define the standard to be applied by the emergency arbitrator in determining whether to grant interim measures. Most rules are silent on this issue. Parties should know when they select rules what legal standard will be applied to determine whether emergency relief may be granted. 

Arbitrator independence and disclosure is a hot topic, with concerns that standards are opaque and restrictive. Do you agree?

Arbitrator independence and disclosure is a hot topic because it is fundamental to the integrity of the arbitration process. It is also a hot topic because there is uncertainty about how the applicable standards are to be applied and the scope of disclosure required. The standards should be clearer and easier to follow. However, I do not believe that the current standards are too restrictive. Parties are entitled to sufficient information to make informed decisions about proposed arbitrators. Greater clarity is needed as to what an arbitrator must disclose and what information parties are entitled to receive.

Given the increasing amount of conflicts arbitrators and counsel are experiencing, should there be a set of universal conflict principals across arbitration institutions?

There should be universal conflicts rules that apply to administered arbitrations by all institutions. This issue is fundamental to the integrity of the arbitration process. Institutions do not now distinguish themselves as requiring more or less disclosure or arbitrator independence. Nor should they. This is such an important issue that there should be a uniform standard that applies to arbitrators in all cases under all rules.

What steps can be made to increase diversity in the arbitration market?

Increasing diversity in the arbitration market is linked to increasing diversity in the overall legal services market. This means that efforts to promote diversity must be directed at all segments of the market that serve as an entry point for arbitration practitioners. The focus should begin with recruiting diverse talent in law schools and at firms and then nurturing the development of that talent over the course of many years of legal practice. Those of us who act as arbitrators or as counsel have an obligation to try to further diversity in our particular segments of the arbitration market.

What advice would you give to practitioners looking to establish their own firm?

Arbitration practitioners are in a competitive service business. There may be many personal reasons for establishing one’s own firm. But there needs to be a business case for doing so. A simple question should always be asked before setting out on one’s own: what can I offer to users of arbitration legal services that is not now being provided? The answer to that question should inform the decision about whether to go solo and how to do so.