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Peers and clients say:
"Mrinal's contribution to the international arbitration practice is noteworthy"
"His expertise and experience in this space is commendable"
"He epitomises independence, ethics and values in his work"
Mrinal leads Secretariat’s Economic Damages and Valuation Practice in India and is recognised as one of the leading expert witnesses in international arbitration by WWL’ s Arbitration 2019 to 2022 publications and the WWL Thought Leader Arbitration Expert Witness 2021, 2022, and 2023. He is a member of the SIAC - Users Council, AIAC Academy, Board of Society of Construction Law (India), Steering Committee of Africa Energy Arbitration Forum, LACIAC and advisor to ENERAP and the Energy Disputes Arbitration Centre (Turkey). He serves on the Advisory Board of C.O.R.D (Centre for Online Resolution of Disputes) and Centre for Arbitration and Research, Maharashtra National Law University in India.
What qualities make for a successful expert witness?
A successful expert witness always aims at assisting the court or the tribunal in providing an independent, objective and unbiased opinion in relation to matters within their expertise. The expert report should clearly set out the expert’s qualifications and relevant experience, counsel’s instructions and all the facts and assumptions that form the underlying basis of the expert’s conclusions. The objective should be to provide a robust, reliable, and credible analysis of complex issues in simple, clear and concise terms, both at the stage of writing the expert report and during cross examination. A successful expert is expected to be confident, assertive and truthful in his communication during the cross examination and must have an eye for details.
What inspired you to pursue a career as a quantum and valuation expert?
I commenced my professional career with a big four accounting firm in New York and was truly fascinated by the real-life application of economic, finance and valuation principles in resolving client issues. In my constant pursuit of a more challenging role, I was enthralled by the unique blend of law and finance in expert witness work. This role provided me an opportunity to assist the tribunals and counsels in opining on complex economic, finance and valuation issues in assessment of damages and claims in the dispute resolution process. The rigour, depth and challenge involved in the expert witness work and the interaction with the legal fraternity is, indeed, intellectually stimulating.
How efficient has the shift towards remote and virtual hearings been? Are they here to stay?
The late Austrian economist and Harvard professor Joseph Schumpeter considered disruption critical for economic growth and societal advancement. Question is, are we ready to embrace this disruption? Indeed, the arbitration community has shown a desire to embrace technology as an alternative to in-person hearings.
The increase in the use of video conferencing and virtual hearing rooms has undoubtedly ushered in greater efficiency and flexibility in arbitration proceedings. However, the issues of screen fatigue and different time zones pose a significant challenge to practitioners.
Lockdowns resulted in new norms and acceptances that are likely to continue beyond the crisis. However, in my view, the future would be a mix of virtual hearings and in-person meetings, especially in cases of large and complex disputes where cross examination and hot tubbing is critical to evaluate the credibility of the experts and narrow down the list of issues of disagreement between the parties.
What has been the most memorable arbitration you have been a part of?
Each dispute is unique and memorable in its own way. Nothing can be more professionally satisfying than a settlement of the dispute based on the expert witness report! I have been fortunate to be involved in such international arbitration cases in the past wherein I had an opportunity to work with some of the finest counsels across the globe.
What challenges do you see the next generation of expert witnesses facing?
First, it is essential to create knowledge and awareness of the role of an independent expert witness in the dispute resolution process amongst the corporates and the legal fraternity in India. The expert witness work is still at a nascent stage in this country (as compared to the developed countries like Singapore, USA, and UK) and requires greater acceptability and recognition by the arbitration community, in general. This is true especially in cases where complex economic, financial and valuation issues are contested.
Second, it is pertinent to recognise the need to continue to develop the next generation of expert witnesses and assist the first timers in identifying suitable opportunities to present themselves as an expert.
Finally, the expert witness work will evolve overtime with the increasing reliance on technology and artificial intelligence; and changing law of damages.
How do you see your practice developing over the next five years?
Secretariat launched its economic damages and valuation practice in India in 2021. The expansion of this practice into India complements Secretariat’s existing market-leading construction delay and quantum practice in Asia. Therefore, the firm is now well positioned to provide a full range of expert services across Asia. I look forward to sharing Secretariat’s global best practices in expert witness services with Indian corporates and law firms in effectively managing their dispute resolution.
In my view, the most important piece for entering a market successfully is finding the right talent to bring together. At Secretariat, we are driven by the desire to build a firm that is set apart by the values of integrity, quality and objectivity that define everything we do. I look forward to delivering world-class solutions every day and attract the best, brightest and most respected names in the industry to our team.
What is the best piece of career advice you have received?
My idol, Howard Rosen once said “change is the only constant in life, so continue to challenge yourself for professional growth to be able to contribute and add value to your clients.”