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Paris ICC Arbitration Court vows to ramp up India as first Indian lawyer joins from US LLM

Abhinav Bhushan: LLM opens Paris ICC door
Abhinav Bhushan: LLM opens Paris ICC door
Exclusive: The Paris-headquartered International Court of Arbitration (ICA) of the International Chambers of Commerce (ICC) has hired its first Indian lawyer in a bid to expand in India by increasing visibility and uptake, despite the remaining problem of judicial interference.

­Former Mulla & Mulla associate Abhinav Bhushan, who is a graduate of Government Law College (GLC) Mumbai in 2008 and the Columbia Law School LLM programme last year, has joined the ICC’s commonwealth team last week as one of the two deputy counsel.

He is working under common law counsel Allison Pearsall, who told Legally India: “As common law counsel and having spent some time studying in India, I am interested in developing ICC arbitration in India.”

Bhushan told Legally India that he competed with 100 other applicants, clearing several rounds of interviews, including a final interview with the deputy secretary general of the ICA in Paris.

Pearsall said that the total interview process took approximately two weeks after short listing 40 people, each of whom were interviewed by telephone, with six finally being selected for face-to-face interviews. “We work closely together here at the secretariat,” explained Pearsall about the stringent selection process for her team that has a caseload of around 170. “Our team is comprised of lawyers the UK, Canada and the United States. We felt that that deputy counsel from India could be advantageous given our caseload for India and our continuing work with Indian parties and practitioners.”

“Everybody has to pull together and get along. Everybody comes from different countries,” she said. “[It] brings with it other challenges, social skills are also helpful into working within an international organization in a small team.”

Managing Indian disputes from abroad

ICC India works with the ICA to propose qualified Indian arbitrators to sit on arbitral tribunals under ICC rules, and disburse ICC publications including statistics and rules among Indian exporters and importer.

Pearsall told Legally India that ICC India’s case load last year comprised about 35 cases involving more than 50 Indian parties, arbitrated in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Goa. Pearsall’s Paris-based Commonwealth team handled approximately half of those cases, with the other half managed by a Hong Kong-based team.

“It is always important to keep in mind that users of arbitration, the parties, that bring cases to arbitration, when they draft their contracts, they have a choice of what institutions to bring their case to. You're offering a service; [it] has to be good [and] efficient.”

India future in dispute

Pearsall said that she sees a green flag for ICC India in the fast developing Indian arbitration market, which, in her perception, puts ICC at an advantage despite a number of other arbitral institutions, such as the LCIA and IIAM.

“I think there's a lot of potential for India, culturally and geographically, given the amount of business it does with Europe and Asia,” she said.

Even though India is well-placed commercially, said Pearsall, the perception of the degree of judicial interference in arbitration in India would need to be further addressed to improve India’s reputation as a seat of arbitration.

A modification of the Indian Arbitration Framework could improve India’s image as a desirable seat of arbitration similar to that enjoyed by the United Kingdom.

Popularity contested

When asked about the apparently greater popularity of domestic ad hoc arbitrations vis-à-vis institutional arbitrations in domestically drafted agreements, she said it could partly be attributable to a misconception that institutional arbitration is expensive, or that arbitrating parties have less control over the procedure.

The costs of an ICC arbitration are constantly monitored and even adjusted up or down, she explained.

The ICC offers a lot in terms of service, she claimed. “The cases are monitored by a truly international team coming from a number of different jurisdictions. ICC arbitration cases are monitored by lawyers. Awards are scrutinised by the court, comprised of seasoned international practitioners. No award is rendered without the court approving it as to its form.”

The entry into force of new ICC rules in January was an excellent opportunity to hold educational events on ICC arbitration in Delhi next month, she said. “This will be a good opportunity for the court, its secretariat and ICC India to work closely together to raise awareness of ICC arbitration.”

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