Cristiano de Sousa Zanetti

Cristiano Zanetti Advogados

Rua Cristiano Viana, 401, conj. 606
05411-000, São Paulo, Brazil


WWL says:

Cristiano de Sousa Zanetti is “an excellent arbitrator” and singled out as “one of the best references on civil and contractual matters”.


Prof. Cristiano Zanetti is a professor of private law (University of São Paulo); Founding partner of Cristiano Zanetti Advogados; Vice-Chair of Brazilian ICC Commission for Arbitration and Mediation; Member of the ICC Global Commission on Arbitration and ADR and of the ICC World Business Institute. He has served either as arbitrator or legal expert in over two hundred domestic or international arbitrations. He is a native Portuguese speaker and is fluent in English, Spanish and Italian.

What motivated you to pursue a legal career?

I believe I have always felt strongly about the rule of law. However imperfect, it is the best alternative to arbitrary rule. Sometimes we take it for granted, but, as we all have recently realised in Brazil, the rule of law is an achievement that must be fostered. It is a privilege to play a part in the efforts towards the correct application of the rule of law in each case I have the opportunity to intervene.

What do you enjoy most about working in arbitration?

Finding the most appropriate solution to each case. As I see it, arbitration allows you to establish the facts as accurately as possible and to dwell on the discussion of their legal consequences to the extent relevant to solve the case. It is arguably the best method to define who is right and who is wrong in accordance with the applicable law.

In what ways has arbitration in Brazil evolved since you started practising?

It has been almost 20 years since I started working with arbitration in Brazil. As a community, I believe we have come a long way, departing from a small group of enthusiasts to become a sophisticated environment, aligned with the best international practices and running around 1000 cases each year.

How does your role as a legal expert in disputes enhance your practice as an arbitrator?

It favours precision while dealing with legal issues. As a legal expert, I am used to having my arguments scrutinised by very competent lawyers, who are often keen to prove me wrong. This is perhaps the ultimate test of a legal reasoning, and I understand it boosts my accuracy while serving as an arbitrator.

What are the pros and cons of an arbitral tribunal versus a sole arbitrator?

When you are a part of an arbitral tribunal, you benefit from the experience and the knowledge of your colleagues, with whom you can discuss several issues at length, whenever it is necessary. When you serve as a sole arbitrator, you can move faster, without having to wait the time that deliberations inevitably take.

In what ways does your practice distinguish itself from competitors in the arbitration market?

I believe that my knowledge of and experience with contractual disputes is well valued by my peers, who trust that I will carefully review the facts and accurately apply both the contract and the law to the case. From my perspective, each case has its own singularities, and it is key to truly understanding the contract and the applicable law to properly establish the relevant legal consequences.

As vice-chair of the Brazilian ICC Commission for Arbitration and Mediation, how do you think institutions can promote diversity and inclusion within the field? What are your goals in this role?

I understand that institutions should play a leading role in promoting diversity and inclusion. Within the ICC, there are several initiatives towards this direction. In 2021 alone, for instance, the ICC put in place three of them: the launching of the ICC Task Force on Disability Inclusion and International Arbitration; the encouragement, in all letters to parties and co-arbitrators, to consider diversity, broadly defined by, but not limited to race, ethnicity, culture, generation and gender, while nominating arbitrators; and the creation of an LGBTQIA+ network. Personally, I believe promoting diversity and inclusion is key to fostering competence over prejudice, which has been one of my goals during my whole career.

What are some of the main obstacles to continuing the digitisation of arbitration?

I understand digitisation is no longer a trend, but a fact, at least in the jurisdictions I am familiar with. I do not see many obstacles to its expansion, because it is time and cost effective. That being said, one should not underestimate the value of in person meetings, which remains important under some circumstances, especially during evidentiary hearings.