Arbitration Team of the Month #25
Jus Connect is pleased to nominate Hogan Lovells for its coveted Arbitration Team of the Month (ATOM) Award, in appreciation for the firm’s extensive work in international arbitration as well as its initiatives championing gender equality in arbitration.
Hogan Lovells has an impressive track record in arbitration. They have been involved in at least 129 international case(s) known by Jus Mundi (86 Commercial Arbitration and 37 Investor-State) in a variety of economic sectors including, Manufacturing; Financial and insurance activities; Mining and quarrying; Construction; Information and communication; Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply (energy); Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles; Transportation and storage; Professional, scientific and technical activities; Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities; Administrative and support service activities; Human health and social work activities; Accommodation and food service activities; Agriculture, forestry and fishing; Real estate activities; Public administration and defence; compulsory social security.
Diversity & gender equality in arbitration is a hot-button issue and has gained traction in the last few years. Yet, lots remain to be done for a fair access to opportunities in arbitration.
Global Head of the International Arbitration practice group and member of the leadership team of the Hogan Lovells’ Global Enforcement Team, Oliver (Ollie) J. Armas, discusses how Hogan Lovells plays its part in gender equality in arbitration and what’s to be expected in arbitration in 2023.
Congratulations on winning this coveted award. Maybe you can begin by telling us about yourself.
I’m Hogan Lovells’ Global Head of International Arbitration. I’ve been with the firm since 2013. I do commercial arbitration principally in various sectors: manufacturing, life science and, increasingly, tech. And some trade and investment arbitration as well, representing both investors & States around the world.
How did you come to work in arbitration in the first place?
As a young associate, I was doing court litigation in New York. My family is from Cuba, and I’m a native Spanish speaker. One day, a partner came to me with a matter in Mexico which was a mix of litigation, ICC arbitration, and a governmental investigation with the Department of Justice. I immediately fell in love with the arbitration side of it. That love emanated from the fact that, in arbitration, cases settle less than in traditional US litigation and tend to make it to the hearing room. Once I started, I never looked back.
Hogan Lovells has had a significant arbitration caseload over the years. With a global network of offices around the world, what is the secret for the firm to continue branching out globally and maintain one of the prime choices for clients?
Our strategy is a decentralized approach. We are approximately 100 lawyers split in almost every single major arbitration hub in the world. Our clients can therefore choose to work with a team based where their arbitration is seated. We also horizontally integrate our practice by staffing across offices so clients can have that round the clock support: when one side of the world is asleep, the other side is working. We also cover a range of languages and expertise of different industries by working collaboratively with all our offices.
We strive to work seamlessly across the world to provide the best services to our clients. For instance, we created the “passport program” whereby associates can go work in a different office on matters of the local team and build that cross-office relationship. It contributes to harmonizing the output we deliver. Clients come to us for our global presence. So they want to feel a constant and consistent output in every market in which we operate. Consistency is key. It takes a lot of effort, frankly, but it is something that is important for us.
Diversity in arbitration is a hot topic in the community. Hogan Lovells has made great strides in the advancement of women internally and in the arbitration community. How do you actively effect change and achieve greater equality in top positions?
Increasingly you’re going to be seeing top positions in the arbitration community go to women and people of color. There are still in certain markets massive gaps when it comes to racial and ethnic equality in arbitration, but we’re taking steps in the right direction. I’m cautiously optimistic that there is a real concerted effort within the arbitration community of making it happen and over time it will. That means that this generation of “pale, male, and stale” arbitrators has to create the opportunities for the next generation of diverse talent in international arbitration. We have to take it seriously.
Within the firm, as a whole, we have stated that we want more women, minority candidates, diverse candidates, etc. to be in positions of leadership within the firm, including within the partnership. Within our practice, we’re doing that by recruiting, retaining, nurturing, and advancing that next generation of diverse talent in our arbitration team. I’m very proud that our next generation of IA practitioners is predominantly women.
We’re also trying to attract other diverse talents, broadly speaking, into the profession. When you get outside of the US, what diversity means and looks like varies tremendously from one market to another. It’s the reason why we focus on gender equality because it’s universal, but it’s not exclusively the way we look at diversity.
What advice would you give in-house counsel seeking more diversity in arbitral tribunals?
My advice is to push your external lawyers to probe deep to identify suitable diverse arbitrator candidates. Some firms, like Hogan Lovells, proactively track diverse candidates and make sure to recommend them to our clients in every case. The challenge is that many clients, including those that are very committed to DEI, typically want very experienced arbitrators. And, unfortunately, many diverse arbitrator candidates may not yet have a long track record sitting as an arbitrator. But, thankfully, that’s changing, albeit slowly. There is tremendous and brilliant diverse talent out there, and I think it incumbent on all of us in the arbitration community to create as many opportunities we can for them.
How important is visibility for your arbitration team? In what ways does your firm/practice promote visibility?
Very important! At a very basic level, it’s maintaining market profile. We need to make sure our name is out there along with all the other big names. Beyond that, it’s critically important to be visible specifically to our clients and prospective clients. So we spend a lot of time being visible in spaces that are relevant to them.
We also encourage our attorneys to be more focused on impactful communications. Instead of yet another blog post about attending a conference or arbitration event, we try to find different and creative ways of having our voices heard in what is often a noisy and crowded market.
What is your vision for the arbitration field in 2023? Any trends that we can expect?
I think arbitration filings lag the market by 2 to 18 months, sometimes a bit longer. There has been a hotbed of events in every part of the world that will create arbitrations down the road.
So, for instance, over the past couple of years, the entire LATAM region has swung to leftist governments, which often run on platforms denouncing the corruption of the previous governments and how foreign investors have benefitted. That often leads to expropriations or other alleged discriminatory actions against foreign investors, which leads to arbitrations.
Also, between the war in Ukraine and other geopolitical events causing supply disruption issues, the overall global economic situation, including inflation, impacting pricing and restricting access to cheap capital, and even COVID still disrupting some markets like China, a lot of companies are in distress. That often leads to breaches of contractual obligations, and that leads to disputes.
Finally, technology is everywhere so tech-related arbitrations will continue to grow. And tech will continue to significantly transform our practice. Folks still shrug off AI, but it’s real and getting better every day. It may not completely replace human judgment, but it will have meaningful impact for sure. No doubt about that (for me!).
Congratulations to the team once again! Jus Connect wishes them nothing but success.
Did you know? Hogan Lovells was ranked in this year’s Jus Connect’s Rankings. Take a look!