An adventure in Germany: GEO student Nick Duffey on his externship at GÖRG

This is the 1st in a series of posts by University of Georgia School of Law students, writing on their participation in our 2017 Global Governance Summer School and Global Externship Overseas initiatives. Author of this post is 2L Nick Duffey.

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Before my Global Externship Overseas, I had an interest in transnational business, taxation, and trade, but I did not understand how businesses from different countries resolved their disputes. After spending my 1L summer working at GÖRG, a law firm in Cologne, Germany, it is amazing how much more perspective I have on international business law and practice.

International business transactions affect our everyday lives, from the products we use to the services we need to maintain our lifestyles and businesses. Most transactions, whether for the manufacture and shipping of products or for services rendered by a party from one nation to another, contain arbitration clauses or provide for another means of alternative dispute resolution. These dispute resolution mechanisms were the precise focus of my work at GÖRG.

My favorite project during my internship was an emergency arbitration at the 20170707_134329.jpgInternational Chamber of Commerce Court of Arbitration. The entire process, from start to finish, lasted only fifteen days. During this intense period, I was given a particular issue to research, and I was thrilled when the material I found was cited by the arbitrator in the order. The opportunity to see the whole arbitration action from start to finish, and to be integrated into the team working on the project, was very interesting.

I also worked on a project to compare the cost and rates of various arbitration institutions with the cost of litigating in the German court system. The goal was to determine the price at which each arbitration institution broke even with German courts. This required a lot of math and conversion of different currencies. Ultimately, I wrote a memo on my findings and created a presentation to demonstrate to clients the value of arbitration.

20170702_200454.jpgLiving and working in Germany was an adventure. The GÖRG building sits just north of the Deutzer Brücke, a bridge over the Rhine River in Köln; that is, Cologne. It is a modern building with seven floors. I shared an office with a German intern, and she was very helpful when I had questions about the German courts and legal system. I am also grateful to Christof Siefarth, a partner at the firm and an LL.M. graduate of Georgia Law, for his mentorship during the course of the summer and for organizing my externship.

In my free time, I had the chance to participate in cultural events and to travel within Germany. During Kölner Lichter, an annual festival of lights, people from all over Germany flocked to the city to watch the boat parade on the Rhine. I took a day trip south of Köln to visit Castle Drachenfels, a beautiful castle with a rich history. I also spent a weekend in Berlin, a must-see city in Germany. I enjoyed wonderful brunches until late in the afternoon, and visited sights such as the Brandenburg gate, Museum Island, and the Berlin Wall memorial, including the East Side Gallery.

Participating in a GEO at GÖRG is one of the best decisions I have ever made.  I have a new interest in arbitration, and I plan to apply to work at an international arbitration center this coming summer. I look forward to building a career in this field because I want to better understand the way businesses clash and resolve issues on an international level. This summer was amazing not only because I garnered valuable practical legal experience, but also because I got to do so on a wonderful adventure that I will remember for life.

Georgia Law team in Vienna for Vis International Arbitration Moot

Delighted to introduce the representatives of the University of Georgia School of Law who are competing this week in Vienna, Austria, at the 24th Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot. They continue a long Georgia Law tradition of participation in this annual event.

At either end are two Associates at King & Spalding LLP in Atlanta: Sara Sargeantson Burns, team coach, and Christopher Smith, who was a member of Georgia Law’s Vis team while earning his J.D. degree here; in the middle is 3L Emily Cox, a member of last year’s competition team and this year its student coach. Also pictured, from the left of Burns to right, are 2L team members Jared Magnuson, Victoria Barker, Maria Kachniarz, and Wheaton Webb.

Viel Glück!

New book on arbitration by Professor Won Kidane, Georgia Law LLM alum

Pleased to announce the publication of a book by our alumnus, Won L. Kidane (left), an Associate Professor at Seattle University School of Law in Washington state.

The Culture of International Arbitration has just been released by Oxford University Press. It’s the 4th book by Kidane, who earned his Georgia Law LL.M. degree in 1997; in 2001, he earned a J.D. degree from the University of Illinois. He was a 2014 Fulbright Scholar in Ethiopia, where he’d completed his initial legal studies in 1993. Kidane practiced at two Washington, D.C., law firms and taught at Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law before joining the faculty at Seattle, where he teaches international arbitration and immigration law.

Here’s a description of his new book:

Although international arbitration has emerged as a credible means of resolution of transnational disputes involving parties from diverse cultures, the effects of culture on the accuracy, efficiency, fairness, and legitimacy of international arbitration is a surprisingly neglected topic within the existing literature. The Culture of International Arbitration fills that gap by providing an in-depth study of the role of culture in modern day arbitral proceedings. It contains a detailed analysis of how cultural miscommunication affects the accuracy, efficiency, fairness, and legitimacy in both commercial and investment arbitration when the arbitrators and the parties, their counsel and witnesses come from diverse legal traditions and cultures. The book provides a comprehensive definition of culture, and methodically documents and examines the epistemology of determining facts in various legal traditions and how the mixing of traditions influences the outcome. By so doing, the book demonstrates the acute need for increasing cultural diversity among arbitrators and counsel while securing appropriate levels of cultural competence. To provide an accurate picture, Kidane conducted interviews with leading international jurists from diverse legal traditions with first-hand experience of the complicating effects of culture in legal proceedings. Given the insights and information on the rules and expectations of the various legal traditions and their convergence in modern day international arbitration practice, this book challenges assumptions and can offer a unique and useful perspective to all practitioners, academics, policy makers, students of international arbitration.

Georgia Law hosts Hendrix Lecture by arbitration expert, Geneva Professor Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler

The University of Georgia School of Law Dean Rusk International Law Center is honored to host the second annual Hendrix Lecture of the Atlanta International Arbitration Society at 6 p.m. Monday, March 27, 2017, at its Atlanta campus, 3475 Lenox Road N.E.

Delivering the lecture will be Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler (left), a Professor of Law at the Geneva University Law School in Switzerland. Known worldwide for her expertise in international arbitration, she has:

► Acted in over 200 international arbitrations, mainly as an arbitrator; and

► Appeared on numerous institutional arbitration panels, including those of the International Chamber of Commerce, International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, American Arbitration Association, London Court of International Arbitration, Singapore International Arbitration Centre, and the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission.

A partner at the Geneva law firm Lévy Kaufmann-Kohler, she formerly practiced law at Schellenberg Wittmer and Baker & McKenzie. She is a member of the Bars of Geneva and New York and of the American Arbitration Association, and  is the Honorary President of the Swiss Arbitration Association.

The Hendrix Lecture is named for Glenn P. Hendrix (right), a partner in the Atlanta office of Arnall Golden Gregory LLP and a founder of the Atlanta International Arbitration Society, also known as AtlAS. Georgia Law is among the founding member organizations of the Society, a non-profit organization that seeks to grow the international arbitration community in the southeastern United States.

This year’s Hendrix Lecture is jointly presented by AtlAS and the Dean Rusk International Law Center, and is part of the law school’s Georgia Women in Law Lead (Georgia WILL) initiative. It is cosponsored by Georgia Law’s Women Law Students Association and its International Law Society. Cooperating entities include the Atlanta Center for International Arbitration and Mediation, the Washington, D.C.-based American Society of International Law, JAMS, the Vienna International Arbitration Centre in Austria, and the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution in New York City.

Registration, snacks, and drinks will begin at 6:00 p.m., and the lecture will begin at 6:30. There will be a reception to follow. A few seats still remain; please register and join us!

Third-party funding a focus of Atlanta international arbitration conference

meganIt’s our pleasure today to publish this post by Megan Alpert, a member of Georgia Law’s J.D. Class of 2018. Along with 2 other students who posted yesterday, Megan recently took part in the 5th annual conference of AtlAS, the Atlanta International Arbitration Society. She served as a rapporteur for a roundtable on “The Rise of Third-Party Funding: Flattening the Playing Field between Haves and Have-Nots?,” featuring attorneys Carlos Forbes (Center for Arbitration and Mediation of the Chamber of Commerce Brazil-Canada and Mundie Advogados, São Paulo, Brazil), Andrea Menaker (White & Case), Eloise Obadia (Derains & Gharavi), Lawrence S. Schaner (Jenner & Block), and Tim Scrantom (JD’83) (Scrantom Dulles International), and moderated by John Watkins (JD’82) (Thompson Hine). Reflecting on this panel, Megan (above left) writes:

atlantamapAtlanta’s infrastructure and legal framework have made it a major seat for international dispute resolution. To secure that position and foster its continued growth, the Atlanta International Arbitration Society (AtlAS) facilitates a conference where representatives of the international legal community discuss various topics relating to international arbitration. I had the privilege of attending the 5th annual AtlAS conference, “International Arbitration in a Not So ‘Flat’ World: Practical Considerations for Counsel and Their Clients.” Here are some things I learned from the panel for which I served as student rapporteur:

► This particular panel focused on the role of third-party funding in cases of international arbitration. Third-party funding, or more simply “TPF”, is a process by which a claim-holder, either on its own behalf or by means of an attorney, approaches and asks a third-party funder to take an interest in the case by agreeing to provide the funds necessary to carry the case forward. The need for TPF typically stems from the so-called “David versus Goliath” cases, in which claim-holders are practically barred from bringing or defending a case because of a lack of funding.

► TPF agreements involve large investments of capital and large amounts of risk, so it’s no surprise that the “reward” sought by third-party funders is also quite substantial. The typical matrix for the funder is a contingency fee split between a fixed and variable return. Often, the funder not only wants to see its capital returned, but also wants to receive a multiple of that investment dispensed on a preferential basis. The fixed return is typically phrased as “investment plus 200%” or “three times capital invested.” The variable return, on the other hand, is roughly 10%-15% of the final award. This arrangement is, in some respect, a means of obviating the risk of not getting paid, but also insuring that some of the risk remains with the firm so they maintain an interest in the case.

► Challenges with TPF present themselves mostly on the battlefield of professional ethics. Panelists alluded to specific challenges for attorneys and their firms, such as:

  • The potential for a conflict of interest or violation of American Bar Association Model Rule 1.8.
  • Issues of disclosure and finder’s fee implications.
  • Practical concerns of jurisdiction and transparency.

It ultimately depends on the characteristics of the specific tribunal but, in general, these hurdles are not insurmountable; rather, they are areas for exercising caution. They require parties to cross every ‘T’ and dot every ‘I’.

► From the point of view of a third-party funder, the biggest issue seems to be in understanding the legal jargon and its minutiae. The difference in “privilege” and “work product” seems to be especially troubling. Third-party funders operate outside the bounds of the attorney-client relationship, and may themselves seek opinions or advice from outside counsel. It’s extremely important that all parties pay close attention to the transfer of documents as well as communications in this web of relationships. To properly operate with these challenges, an attorney will most likely require a confidentiality agreement involving the third-party funder and assurances of protection from any outside counsel having knowledge of the matter. This agreement seeks to make sure none of the parties improperly turns over protected work-product and that there isn’t any leakage of confidential or privileged information once it passes beyond the bounds of general attorney-client privilege.

atlas-logoPanelists broke down the issues into understandable bite-sized pieces, yet still managed to tackle the tough and more technical issues. They brought to light common issues and misconceptions of the use of third-party funding in hopes of correcting any misunderstandings and encouraging those who may have previously been on-the-fence to not shy away from this avenue for funding. Because of their diverse backgrounds, panelists were also able to provide different perspectives on the issues, including the international application of third-party funding for non-US tribunals. All in all, this panel was incredibly informative – especially considering I had absolutely no idea what TPF was prior to my arrival.

Atlanta international arbitration panel surveys recent developments

johann_cropIt’s our pleasure today to publish this post by 2 Georgia Law students,  Johann Ebongom, an LL.M. candidate, and Brian Griffin, a member of the J.D. Class of 2019 and a Dean Rusk International Law Center Student Ambassador. Johann and Brian recently took part in the 5th annual conference of AtlAS, the Atlanta International Arbitration brian2Society. Along with another student whose post will appear tomorrow, they served as rapporteurs for a roundtable on “Recent Developments in International Arbitration,” featuring attorneys Edward A. Marshall (JD’02) (Arnall Golden), Eric D. Johnson (CARE), Kirk W. Watkins (JD’75) (Womble Carlyle), and moderated by Randall F. Hafer (Kilpatrick Townsend). Reflecting on this panel, Johann (top left) and Brian (lower left) write:

Atlanta, Georgia, is fast becoming a preferred seat for international dispute resolution. This is in part due to the efforts of the Atlanta International Arbitration Society (AtlAS), whose primary goal is to promote Atlanta as a venue for the resolution of international commercial and investment disputes. AtlAS hosts an annual conference in pursuit of this goal, and so provides a forum where practitioners, experts, and others interested in international arbitration can network and exchange ideas related to this rapidly evolving field.

atlantamapWe had the privilege to represent the University of Georgia School of Law as student rapporteurs at the 5th annual AtlAS conference, “International Arbitration in a Not So ‘Flat’ World: Practical Considerations for Counsel and Their Clients.” The particular panel we attended focused on the use of arbitration as a dispute resolution mechanism in the payments-processing, international nonprofit, intellectual property, and construction industries. Here are a few things that we learned from the panelists’ presentations:

Arbitration is a binding dispute settlement mechanism whose basic concept is that it is beneficial for somebody with a deep understanding of the context of a dispute to decide the outcome of that dispute. The practice of arbitration first came about when merchants decided that they wanted fellow merchants to settle their disputes instead of judges, who often lacked knowledge necessary to fairly settle a dispute in a particular commercial context. These merchants they believed that because other merchants were the people with the best understanding of their particular industry, they were more likely to fairly settle their disputes than anyone else. The practice of arbitration has continued through the ages, but arbitrators in this day and age are almost always lawyers with expertise in a particular field. However, non-lawyer industry experts still play a vital role by providing information that helps the arbitrators decide the case.

► The payments-processing industry facilitates use of credit and debit cards. When someone uses a credit or debit card, the payment must first pass through a processor to get from the bank to the receiving business. Most disputes in this industry are currently resolved through litigation, but experts in the field see value in moving clients to arbitration. Litigation is often cost prohibitive and the public forum is an inhospitable place to settle disputes in the payments processing industry in general. The confidentiality of arbitration would be a great benefit, as it would allow companies to better protect consumer data.

► In relation to international nonprofit organizations, disputes generally arise between the charity and private companies, governments, or employees. However, formal disputes are not common in the non-profit industry, and when they do arise charities tend to favor courtrooms over arbitration. This is because charities are often seen as sympathetic parties, which can increases their chances of winning a judgment in court as opposed to arbitration. However, international charities often find it hard to get a balanced approach in foreign courts, as they are often subject to local bias and trust issues while litigating in foreign legal systems. Arbitration might be the solution for international organizations looking for a fair resolution to disputes arising in foreign countries.

►There are many opportunities for arbitration to be utilized in the intellectual property industry. As the cost of litigation rises, more businesses are electing to pursue cost-effective means of dispute resolution, like arbitration, in lieu of protecting their rights in court. That said, generally three categories of disputes arise in the IP industry:

  1. In the first, the two parties are unknown to each other before the dispute arises. In this situation, one party is usually alleging that the other party has infringed upon their patent rights, and they go to court to settle their dispute.
  2. In the second, parties have a contractual relationship. This can be between licensor-licensee, manufacturer-distributor, or supplier-purchaser. Because of the prevalence of arbitration clauses in contracts, these disputes are often settled through arbitration.
  3. In the final category, companies lack agreements between themselves, but work in the same industry. Typically these companies are not likely to arbitrate; however, given that litigation is very expensive, some companies do arbitrate in order to keep their legal costs down.

► The construction industry is worth many trillions of dollars worldwide. International construction projects often produce massive and complex disputes that usually cost more than is necessary and take longer than they should. The construction industry has traditionally looked for alternative ways to settle disputes. Arbitration is quicker and cheaper than going to court, and still provides an enforceable resolution to the dispute, making it preferable to other more traditional methods of dispute resolution like litigation. Arbitration is also valuable in that it provides the ability to have a dispute decided by others working in the same industry, as most construction clients would prefer that arbitrators knowledgeable about the construction industry decide their case instead of a judge or a jury with no knowledge of the industry.

atlas-logoAttending this year’s AtlAS Conference was an enriching experience. We learned about the use of arbitration as a dispute settlement mechanism in the context of four different industries and we took full advantage of the opportunity to meet and network with practitioners and experts in this rapidly growing field, many of whom were willing to share their experiences and impart helpful advice in regards to our academic journey at the University of Georgia School of Law. In doing so, we forged important professional relationships that we hope will last for many years to come. Finally, we thank Georgia Law for this wonderful opportunity to represent our law school at this important and highly educational event.

International law alive and well in Atlanta

Last week was a busy one for international law in Atlanta.

On Thursday evening, the Young Arbitrators Group for the Atlanta International Arbitration Society (AtlAS) and the International Chamber of Commerce Young Arbitrators Forum (ICC YAF) presented an excellent event on international law practice in Atlanta. As announced, it featured four attorneys serving as in-house counsel at major corporations, including:

  • Gary Bunce, Assistant General Counsel, Delta Airlines
  • Carolyn Dinberg, VP and Associate General Counsel, InterContinental Hotels Group
  • Eugenia Milinelli, Counsel, JAS Freight Forwarding
  • Nicole Levy, Executive Director and Senior Legal Counsel, AT&TKing and Spalding

Attended by many young members of AtlAS, ICC YAF, and the broader Atlanta legal community, the evening presented an interesting conversation about the use of international arbitration by large corporations, and provided insight into the career tracks of the panelists. The panelists offered advice to young attorneys, such as the importance of acquiring language skills, and the reception afterwards at the office of King & Spalding provided a valuable networking opportunity.

Then, on Friday morning, the World Affairs Council of Atlanta hosted a breakfast with Ambassador Charles Rivkin, who currently serves as the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs. Amb RivkinAmbassador Rivkin spoke about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) that was signed on February 4, 2016 in New Zealand, but has yet to be approved by Congress. Ambassador Rivkin stressed the ways the TPP would benefit Atlanta businesses, in particular those exporters of: transportation equipment; non-electrical machinery; computer and electronic products; chemicals; processed foods; electrical equipment, appliances and components; the agricultural sector generally. He further stressed that the the TPP is unique and good for U.S. businesses because it sets rules for state-owned enterprises, has a chapter dedicated to small and medium sized businesses, and addresses intellectual property and data flow, labor standards, and the environment. His remarks inspired a lively conversation with the audience, who represented a cross-section of the Atlanta business community.