535 Flatbush Avenue, Suite 174
NY 11225, Brooklyn, USA
Peers and clients say:
"Stephanie is an excellent arbitrator"
Stephanie Cohen is a full-time Canadian arbitrator in New York City, qualified in New York and Ontario, with over 20 years’ experience in international commercial arbitration. Stephanie is well-known for practical and scholarly work on the interplay between technology and arbitration procedure, including cybersecurity. She is also a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and chair of its New York branch.
Describe your career to date.
After articling at a leading national firm in Canada and qualifying to practice law in Ontario, I joined White & Case in New York where I practiced international arbitration and litigation for 10 years.
In the decade-plus since, I have acted exclusively as an arbitrator across a broad range of industries, legal systems, and arbitration rules. I have also cultivated insight on the impact of technology on the arbitration process, including through co-authoring an award-winning article on cybersecurity, serving as a member of the working group that drafted the ICCA-NYC Bar-CPR Cybersecurity Protocol on International Arbitration, and chairing the working group that drafted the ICC Commission Report on Leveraging Technology for Fair, Effective, and Efficient International Arbitration Proceedings. I speak regularly on other matters of practical and scholarly interest as well, and serve as faculty for both new and advanced arbitrator training and educational initiatives offered by the ICC, AAA/ICDR, CPR, and Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, among others.
What qualities make for an effective arbitrator?
An effective arbitrator commands authority by mastering procedure, but is also flexible and practical. An effective arbitrator is also conscientious about “getting it right,” which requires self-awareness to reflect on what could (and should) have been done differently in each case and ongoing commitment to learning about arbitration law and practice. It is equally important to be available, diligent, open-minded and intellectually curious, analytical and decisive, adept at communication, collegial, and alert to the nuances of different cultures and legal systems.
How does your vast experience across diverse sectors complement your practice?
The diversity of my subject-matter experience has invariably exposed me to a diversity of commercial interests and practices, deepening my understanding of contract negotiation and construction across cultures and legal traditions, and better equipping me to manage complex disputes.
What steps can be made to increase diversity in the arbitration field?
Continuing to develop and increase access to information about diverse arbitrators is critical to encourage and stimulate thinking beyond the usual suspects about who might be a suitable arbitrator. But to successfully turn suggestions about diverse arbitrators into actual appointments, we also need to create and provide opportunities for visibility and exposure to new and lesser-known entrants into the field so they can be seen “in action” and instil confidence in those poised to appoint them.
How has the shift to online working and events affected networking opportunities?
It’s a mixed bag. Many online events have had larger audiences than if they were held in-person, as well as greater global reach (despite time zone differences). Online events are also being offered at no or low cost. As a result, speakers benefit from greater visibility and exposure and events are more inclusive. Virtual platforms also afford ambitious young practitioners tremendous opportunities to craft substantive programs of interest and to self-promote. On the other hand, it’s harder to build relationships online without the one-on-one, repeat interactions that normally take place over the course of a day’s coffee breaks at the typical conference.
How does your chairmanship and membership of cybersecurity and IT-related commissions enhance your arbitration practice?
My work in these areas is highly practical and focused on ways to enhance arbitration practices and procedures, which directly benefits my case work.
In addition, by virtue of my focus on the procedural impact of technology on arbitration proceedings, I have increasingly been asked to arbitrate technology-related disputes, such as disputes about blockchain technology or software development and collaboration agreements.
It is reported that there is a new generation of arbitrators emerging who are increasingly specialised. How does increased specialisation benefit the arbitration market and what are the potential pitfalls?
The ability to appoint an arbitrator with specialised industry expertise is often heralded as an advantage of arbitration over litigation. Ensuring that one or more decision-makers have relevant technical knowledge or industry background may instil party trust and confidence in the process and cut down on the need to educate the arbitrators about technical matters. This is a potential marketing point for industries that have underutilised arbitration in the past. However, there may also be a risk that a decision becomes too focused on technical details rather than on the governing law and/or contract or that the specialised arbitrator will rely on their own opinion rather than on the evidence that is submitted.
What advice would you give to aspiring arbitrators hoping to one day be in your position?
Get involved. Seek training and credentials. Master a subject and share your knowledge with the world. Read widely.