Andrey Gorlenko: “The Russian Arbitration Week Will Be Active, Eventful, And Will Feature the Stars of Arbitration”

Edvard Munch

Jurisprudence, 1887

A member of the Steering Committee of the Russian Arbitration Week, Partner at Ivanyan & Partners Law Firm, member of the Board of the Russian Arbitration Center at the Russian Institute of Modern Arbitration, Andrey Gorlenko shared with us the idea behind the Russian Arbitration Week, and told us about its most renowned speakers and highlights. He also spoke about the activities of the Russian Arbitration Center, summed up the results of the arbitration reform and replied to those criticizing it.

– Who were the originators of the Russian Arbitration Week? When and how did you come up with that idea?

Back in 2018, the Russian Arbitration Center, together with LF Academy and the international law firms Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (Russia) LLP and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP brought back to life a very successful and unique (by format) conference, the Russian Arbitration Day. As to the idea of creating the Russian Arbitration Week, it occurred to us in early 2019 in the most natural way: that is, at the exact time when the conditions required for it emerged – these were two successful arbitration-related events that took place around the same time (the international conference GAR Live Moscow and the Russian Arbitration Day).

The uniqueness of this format and the success of the conference are the product of several elements. Firstly, that the speakers of the conference are not the sponsors who get a chance to present in exchange for a donation, but rather anyone who suggests an interesting and topical subject and is ready to work on the speech under the close supervision of authoritative moderators. This time, they are Anton Asoskov, Alexei Zhiltsov, and Roman Khodykin. They select noteworthy topics and work with speakers during several months in advance of the conference. Secondly, it is the almost free-of-charge access to the conference – it was only in 2019 that we introduced a minor entrance fee of 1,000 rubles to improve the attendance of those who register “just in case”, making us limit registration at some point, and then never come, thus preventing others from attending. Finally, it is the publication of a collection of speeches The New Horizons of International Arbitration, which is distributed to all conference participants and made publicly available. Also, every year three to four guest star speakers are invited to the RAD, who are acknowledged experts in international arbitration and who do not have to go through the selection process, but who also submit their speeches for publication. Last year, the RAD brought together 300 participants. I hope that the Russian Arbitration Week will gather even more participants this year.

So, we had the Russian Arbitration Day in Moscow. Of course, we wanted it to evolve into an arbitration week, seeing how such weeks are already held in very different cities: Paris, Hong Kong, San Paolo. But we needed at least one more “anchor” event for that. It so happened that in March 2019, a week before the RAD, Dmitry Dyakin with his colleagues brought a successful conference – GAR Live – to Moscow. It is held by an international journal Global Arbitration Review in many cities of the world and is very popular because of its professional and lively format. Admittedly, the first time it took place in Moscow, it was a great success. It became clear to us that it must become part of the arbitration calendar as an annual event. That is why, straight after the RAD and GAR Live Moscow last March, we discussed their results with Dmitry Dyakin and the moderators of the Russian Arbitration Day, Anton Asoskov, Alexei Zhiltsov, and Roman Khodykin. We knew this: if we put these two conferences on schedule next to each other the next year, we would create a good foundation to start piecing together a whole week of arbitration-related events.

It just so happened that around the same time, in mid-March in Moscow, we have the Pre-Moots of the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot. For over a decade, they were administered by Olesya Petrol in the walls of the Lomonosov MSU’s Faculty of Law and assembled over 20 foreign student teams, many coaches and arbitrators every year. We thought it a good idea to include this prominent arbitration-related pre-moot into the program of the week.

These were the three pillars that set the stage for the Russian Arbitration Week. As we can see now, the number of events has multiplied several times over, which is a great thing to see and which evidences the growing interest to the event both in Russia and abroad. Of course, the Russian Arbitration Week would not have been possible without the members of its Steering Committee, who are actively working on its contents and development.

– What is the importance of the Russian Arbitration Week for the development of arbitration? Can we say that the Russian Arbitration Week is a further step of the arbitration reform?

Yes, I think we can, since the Russian Arbitration Week is the consequence of the healthy arbitration environment, that has started emerging just a few years ago as part of the reform. We can see the interest to arbitration growing in the recent years. Lawyers are increasingly attracted to arbitration both as a dispute resolution method and one of the potential career paths.

The reform became a very important and much needed push towards the development of arbitration. The leading arbitral institutes have updated their rules and lists of arbitrators and have increased their activity in various regions. There has been an exponential proliferation of arbitration-related events throughout the year.

Only the Russian Arbitration Center has been for three successive years now hosting the preliminary rounds (pre-moots) of three international arbitration moots for students (one on commercial arbitration, and two on investment arbitration) and one Russian moot court competition on the arbitration of corporate disputes.

The Russian Arbitration Week will facilitate more active sharing of experience and expertise in the sphere of arbitration. Now, one can come to Moscow and attend not just one, but several events at once and spend one’s time with maximum efficiency.

Even more foreign arbitration specialists will visit Moscow and learn that we have modern arbitral institutions in place and many young and promising arbitration practitioners who are proficient at foreign languages and possess incredible knowledge and skills. They are ready to work a lot and to evolve and they can be engaged to take part in dispute resolution across the globe.

– Please tell us about the stars and highlights of the 2020 Russian Arbitration Week.

The invited speakers at the Russian Arbitration Day include Gary Born, David W. Rivkin, Toby Landau QC, and Stavros Brekoulakis. But the main stars of the Russian Arbitration Day are the RAD speakers who suggested interesting topics and went through a rigorous selection, and then a no less rigorous stage where they worked on their speeches under the close supervision of the event’s moderators.

During GAR Live, the participants will listen to Lord Peter Goldsmith QC, as well as speakers from Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, and other jurisdictions. There will be many Russian speakers, too, such as partners of law firms that are vigorously practicing international arbitration. A live discussion on topical issues awaits the participants, and it will certainly be of interest even for the most sophisticated professionals in dispute resolution.

We will also see a presentation of the Russian translation of Gary Born’s seminal textbook International Arbitration: Law and Practice, that will be held at the Library of the International and Comparative Law Research Center with the support of the Russian Arbitration Center (RAC). It is a big event for us. I hope that the book will become one of the indispensable companions not only for students, but also for all practicing lawyers and judges across Russia who are interested in arbitration.

The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) will hold a seminar concerning how arbitrators make decisions and what the parties’ counsel need to take into account when pleading before arbitrators. I am sure that this topic will ignite the interest not only among CIArb members, but among a vast audience of lawyers.

I want to draw special attention to the first event related to women’s participation in arbitration (Russian Women in Arbitration), that will take place on Wednesday, 18 March. It is a wonderful initiative that will bring together many colleagues and will definitely help achieve a more balanced development of the arbitral community.

Furthermore, the week will feature workshops by the top arbitration institutes: the DIS, LCIA, SIAC, VIAC. The RAW will be active, eventful, and will feature the stars of arbitration. I suggest that all of you start adding our events into your calendars, and, if possible, shift meetings and business trips to the weeks after or before the RAW.

– What steps does the Russian Arbitration Center take to develop and promote independent and professional arbitration in Russia and globally?

In almost four years of its existence, the Russian Arbitration Center has done a great deal thanks to the excellently coordinated work of its close-knit team. When we started out, there were two of us, then six. Now, the RAC team has over twenty staff, who are not only professionally administering disputes, but are also very actively involved in all of the Center’s events. It is because of their enthusiasm and energy that the RAC is successfully holding such complex events as, for instance, the Moot Court on Arbitration of Corporate Disputes named after Professor Viktor P. Mozolin. Every year, around 80 teams from over 20 universities from different Russian regions come to participate in the competition.

Last year, the RAC hosted the first Summer Academy International Arbitration in Russia and the CIS, which proved very interesting and eventful for its participants. In literally several weeks, we received around 80 applications from various cities from those wishing to take part in the Academy. I am certain that this year there will be even more applications. The RAC is also regularly organizing arbitration workshops together with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. At the end of the workshop, lawyers can take an exam and become CIArb members (MCIArb) without having to travel abroad.

Last year, the RAC held a seminar during the Hong Kong Arbitration Week. The Center is also actively involved in the work of UNCITRAL Working Group II concerning expedited arbitration procedure.

Finally, in early 2020, there was a rotation at the RAC and it now has new members in its Board. Along with leading Russian lawyers, they include such high-profile international specialists as Klaus Peter Berger (Germany), Elizabeth Gloster DBE, PC (UK), Neil Kaplan QC (Hong Kong), Francis Xavier SC (Singapore), David W. Rivkin (US). It is a great honor for us. We are confident that the presence of such authoritative arbitrators in the RAC Board will further facilitate the development and promotion of independent and professional arbitration in Russia, as well as the promotion of Russian arbitration and Russian arbitrators abroad.

– How, in your opinion, has the arbitration reform turned out? What is your opinion on its results?

I think that the results are most assuredly positive. And that we will have such a variety of events during the first Russian Arbitration Week is the best illustration. Moreover, we managed to get rid of a considerable number of examples of bad faith use of arbitration, which brought the institute of arbitration in the eyes of users and courts into disrepute. The isolated residual phenomena that allegedly retreated into the area of ad hoc arbitration (but in fact have nothing to do with actual ad hoc arbitration) have recently been quite efficiently cut in the bud at the level of courts. This is largely due to the approach of the Russian Supreme Court, which was articulated in late 2019 in its Plenum’s Resolution No. 52 dated 10 December 2019. That Resolution, as I see it, is an important result of the positive developments we are observing now after the reform has been completed.

One cannot omit to note that there are lawyers who criticize the reform in social networks and even call for abolishing the laws enacted as part of it. Myself, I see a certain positive trend there, too. The reform revealed who is genuinely willing to work professionally, to create and unite, and who wants once again to get personal PR exclusively by criticizing the Russian jurisdiction and disrespecting their colleagues’ work. Now, note that the key message of the Russian Arbitration Week is promoting the intellectual potential of Russian arbitrators and Russian arbitration. It is clear that the Russian Arbitration Week will become a forum where Russian arbitration professionals will be able to talk to their foreign colleagues on an equal footing and discuss not only the problems, but also the positive developments in the Russian jurisdiction.

Pre-reform, its critics strived to export what was largely expected of them abroad: workshops with bliny and balalaikas, and also negative stories about Russian arbitration and Russian courts. In that sense, what was happening to arbitration and the courts’ attitude to arbitration gave them an advantage.

So they did that, and professionally enough to gain personal authority as experienced guides into this “netherworld”, got appointed as arbitrators and got new clients to advise. One could see no tangible positive change for arbitration and Russian practitioners from these events intended for the outside user.

Now that the times have changed and the arbitration landscape has transformed after the reform, these individual lawyers are very scared that the meticulously and painstakingly crafted stereotypes and phobias of the foreign audience will suddenly vanish. That is why they resort to tendentious, unprofessional and emotional rhetoric, which is obviously at odds with their true intellectual and professional level.

Those ready to work and create, however, all the while meaningfully discussing concerns and trying to find solutions, are the overwhelming majority. Initiatives such as the Russian Arbitration Week make that abundantly clear. I am convinced: the success of the Russian Arbitration Week will once again show that we are on the right track, which is crucial if we want to develop the Russian jurisdiction and build a future for Russian arbitration practitioners.


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