Over 350 practitioners, academics and other members of the arbitration community gathered at Freshfields’ London offices on Wednesday evening for the 33rd annual Freshfields and Queen Mary University arbitration lecture.

Recent speakers have included Professor Lucy Reed, the Rt Hon Lord Mance, Professor Emmanuel Gaillard and the Rt Hon Lady Justice Gloster.

This year’s lecture was delivered by Gary Born, partner and chair of Wilmer Hale’s international arbitration group, and was entitled ‘The Seasons of Arbitration’.

Gary charted the long and illustrious history of arbitration as a dispute resolution mechanism and described how we are currently enjoying a “golden summer”, with extensive use of arbitration to resolve international commercial contract and treaty disputes.  He observed that arbitration plays an important role in upholding the rule of law, especially in jurisdictions with non-independent judiciaries, and argued that “arbitration serves the needs of international commerce and trade in a way that national courts do not do”.

He then asked whether winter is coming.  He noted that arbitration has been “under attack”, citing in particular the withdrawal of Latin American states such as Venezuela from the ICSID Convention and the CJEU’s decision in Achmea v. Slovakia.  He expressed confidence that arbitration will prevail, observing that the benefits of international commerce and trade are “too important for too many people” and arguing that the option to agree to resolve disputes by arbitration is an expression of parties' fundamental right to freedom of contract.  However, he said that the end of the story ultimately depends on us: every day, the arbitration community must ensure that arbitration "realises its promise" and the process serves its users effectively.

Following the lecture, Freshfields welcomed 112 attendees for a dinner hosted by London arbitration partners Nigel Rawding QC, Sylvia Noury and Will Thomas.

This evening Freshfields will host an informal Q&A with Gary for young arbitration practitioners and students in association with ICDR Y&I and YSIAC.  The event will take place in the Northcliffe House building in Freshfields’ London office (on the corner of Tudor Street and Bouverie Street).  Registration will start at 5.30pm, the Q&A will start at 6pm and there will be drinks afterwards (from 7pm).