Stavros Brekoulakis

3 Verulam Buildings

Gray's Inn
WC1R 5NT, London, England


Peers and clients say:

"Stavros is one of the foremost arbitrators practising in England"
"Stravros is one of the best arbitrators of his generation"
"He is an arbitration specialist with a brilliant mind"


Professor Brekoulakis is an arbitrator at 3 Verulam Buildings. Professor Brekoulakis has extensive experience as arbitrator in over 70 arbitrations in both investment and commercial disputes under all major arbitration rules. He has been named a Global Elite Thought Leader by WWL and praised as a “reigning thought leader in the arbitration space” and “one of the great minds in the international arbitration world” with “a seemingly encyclopaedic recall of jurisprudence.”

What inspired you to pursue a career in international commercial arbitration?

Two things: the first is that international arbitration tends to attract talented individuals. It is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with colleagues who are intelligent and have an international outlook and a great sense of humour.

The second is that international arbitration is currently one of the most exciting and important fields of international law. It is exciting because it cuts across several legal disciplines, including private and public international law, substantive and procedural law, international economic law and human rights. And it is important because it frequently deals with issues which implicate the public interest and governmental policy.

As an arbitrator, I am privileged to participate in the resolution of large disputes involving international corporations, governments and state entities. As an academic, I am fascinated to be able to influence, with my scholarly work, the doctrine and policy of the law.

In what ways have you noticed tribunals becoming more sophisticated and entertaining a greater variety of techniques in proceedings?

Proceedings in international arbitration have become more complex, and often challenging, nowadays. Counsel tend to make more procedural requests and applications in the course of an arbitration (e.g. determination of preliminary matters, security for costs, applications to exclude evidence, several requests for document production, introduction of new claims and counterclaims). As a result, many procedural issues often become unnecessarily contentious, e.g. timetables, mode of hearing, hearing bundles. Speaking in public lectures and conferences, many distinguished colleagues have introduced excellent ideas to increase the efficiency of arbitration proceedings. For example, David Rivkin has unveiled the Town Elder rules which focus on the resolution of matters on an issue-by-issue basis, while Lucy Reed has proposed that the procedural timetable includes an in-person meeting (a “retreat”) for the tribunal to study the file with the goal of arriving together at targeted directions to the parties for the hearing. More recently, Sundaresh Menon called for “post-pandemic reinvention of procedure”.

While it is common ground that arbitrators and parties should not apply the same procedures to a variety of matters for which they may not be suited, proposals for procedural innovation do not always find their way to practice. I wonder whether case management in arbitration needs less innovation and more time and dedication on the part of arbitrators. Arbitrators need to start reading the file and develop a good understanding of the case from the outset. They also need to be alert throughout the proceedings and quickly address matters as they arise. In my view, the most effective techniques in proceedings are diligence and common sense.

You are highly regarded for your expertise in handling matters concerning the construction industry – Which types of construction disputes do you anticipate arising in the future due to covid-19?

There are two types of covid-19 related disputes which have already given rise to construction arbitrations. The first are disputes concerning delay and disruption which have significantly affected the construction industry. We are already seeing evidence that construction work is declining at the steepest rate since 2009. Many construction sites have been closed down, and where construction works continue, they are experiencing significant slowdown in supply chains for materials, and labour shortages due to illness, self-isolation and travel restrictions. Even when construction works resume, contractors will have to abide by new health protocols which will involve severe restrictions in the number of workers that can be on site. These restrictions will significantly affect the level of productivity and the ability of contractors to mobilise manpower, and have already caused significant disruption and delays.

The second are disputes arising out of concession contracts concerning the operation of infrastructure projects. Because the pandemic has seriously affected peoples’ ability to travel and commute both internationally and domestically, operators of e.g. airports and highways have seen a dramatic decline in their earnings which has left them exposed to debts from financing the projects. Operators are now filling arbitration claims against states and state entities aiming to recover part of the substantial loss of profit they have experienced.

What are your goals for your practice in the next five years?

In the last ten years that I have practiced exclusively as arbitrator, I have been privileged to be appointed in commercial and investment treaty disputes in a wide range of jurisdictions and governing laws under the rules of all major arbitration institutions. My practice has been busy and constantly growing. My goal now is to consolidate my experience and work on my main expertise, namely disputes in major infrastructure and investment projects which arise either through an investment treaty or the underlying construction and concession contract.