Peers and clients say:
"Michael is always calm, measured, and on top of the detail"
"He is my go-to expert for quantum issues"
"A reassuring presence to have on the client's side"
"An expert who communicates as clearly in writing as he does in person"
Michael Stokes is a Senior Managing Director at Ankura, based in London. He is an internationally recognised quantum expert, with more than 30 years of experience in the construction industry. He is regularly appointed as an independent expert on complex and high-value disputes. Having been instructed in arbitration or litigation on circa 60 occasions, Michael has testified in a number of forums and jurisdictions including the UK, France, Denmark, UAE, Qatar, and Australia.
After 30 years of practice, how do you keep the edge to maintain an internationally renowned practice?
Appreciating the level of trust that both the client and its legal team place in you in what are, often, hugely important matters for the business tends to focus the mind. That, and continually striving to learn from clients and colleagues helps maintain your edge.
What has been your most satisfying arbitration dispute to date and why?
It is difficult to single out a single arbitration, but the cases where my counterparty expert and I have been able to significantly narrow the quantum issues that the tribunal needs to consider, and clearly articulate our differences, always stand out. Driving these efficiencies through detailed and accurate work is always satisfying.
How are AI and other technological developments affecting the analyses you conduct? How do you anticipate it will affect analyses moving forward?
In truth, quantum analysis in the independent expert arena is not at the forefront of technological advancement. That said, one can see that as interfaces between enterprise systems become more robust and user-friendly, much of the reconciliation between, for example, time-recording systems and cost ledgers, is now fully automated, saving time and expense and improving accuracy.
You have significant experience and expertise with major disputes in the infrastructure and natural resources sectors. What skills do experts need in order to thrive in such disputes?
Often large infrastructure disputes have a lot of moving parts, with multiple heads of claim across different elements of the underlying project. An ability to absorb significant volumes of detail, without losing sight of the big picture, is, therefore, essential.
What impact does a more interventionist approach from tribunals have on independent expert work?
In my experience this is always a positive influence, because experienced and sophisticated tribunals only tend to be interested in one thing in relation to quantum, and that is understanding very clearly what factual matters and/or professional opinions are causing the quantum differences between the parties and/or experts, and what is the quantum that arises on each parties’ case.
If you could change one thing about giving testimony as an arbitration expert, what would it be and why?
I would increase the use of agreed schedules of issues in respect of quantum, to help set the agenda for the hearing with a focus on the large value items where the respective experts differ most. Give the tribunal what they want and need.
What are the most significant challenges currently facing your clients and how can experts help to address them?
As projects become more complex and the volume of data captured on typical projects increases, the cost of international arbitration is commensurately increasing. With this in mind, it is more important than ever that experts strive to work as efficiently as possible, identifying the key issues quickly and maintaining focus and proportionality.