#10QuestionswithMaxwell Interview Series: Albert Marsman, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek
Based out of De Brauw’s offices in Singapore, Albert has acted as counsel in international arbitrations under investment treaties, M&A and joint venture contracts, gas purchase agreements and other commercial contracts. He holds law degrees from Stanford Law School and Leiden University and is admitted to the Dutch and New York bars. Albert is currently lead counsel in four ICSID arbitrations and is representing Chinese, Singaporean, Indonesian, Korean and Central-Asian clients in disputes before different tribunals and courts. His book International Arbitration in the Netherlands was published by Kluwer Law International earlier this year.
In this interview, Albert shared what inspired him to practice international arbitration, best work-related advice he received, his favourite Singapore delicacy, and more.
Read his full interview below:
Q: What inspired you to take on practice in international arbitration?
A: When I joined my firm’s litigation department, I started working on a new case for an insurance company whose foreign business had been harmed by new government legislation. I had never heard about the UNCITRAL rules or the PCA, but from the first procedural hearing before Vaughan Lowe, Johnny Veeder and Albert Jan van den Berg, I was grabbed by the process. I stayed with the case throughout my first years, presented arguments during a quantum hearing and the opening statement in a second related arbitration at the PCA, up to writing the briefs for the setting aside proceeding that went before the ECJ. I did not know then, that the case that inspired me to work in arbitration would set one of the prominent precedents in international arbitration over the last decade (the name of our client: Achmea).
Q: Looking back in your career, what has been your proudest achievement?
A: I feel it is a bit too early in my career to look back with a sense of pride. A happy moment was the reversal of the setting aside of the largest arbitral awards ever rendered (the USD 50 billion Yukos awards) – a case that I argued on behalf of the former Yukos majority shareholders with my partners, Marnix Leijten, Matthias Kuscher and Eelco Meerdink. I will also not easily forget arguing my first case before an ICC tribunal in Osaka, and my first case as lead counsel before an ICSID tribunal in Paris, in each case with opposing counsel several years my senior and large sums at stake. Not pride but rather a relief (for me and my wife) was the publication of my book ‘International Arbitration in the Netherlands’ by Kluwer.
Q: What do you think are the key qualities and skills an arbitrator should have?
A: Curiosity and drive to understand the parties’ positions and their motives, to the extent ascertainable. Having the courage to take difficult decisions.
Q: If you could change one thing about the arbitral system, what would it be?
A: I will give two. (1) Increased use of list procedures when appointing the presiding arbitrator. It gives the parties more control over the appointment than a direct appointment by an institution, while at the same time requiring the parties to consider new or more diverse candidates that they might not have thought of if the appointment had been made through party agreement or the co-arbitrators. (2) Increased transparency for arbitrations with a public interest such as investment arbitration. It makes the arbitration process easier to accept for the public and easier to account for and explain by public bodies involved.
Q: Virtual and hybrid hearings are becoming the new norm. How has that affected hearings proceedings, in your opinion?
A: They have made it easier for counsel and client teams to work together on one case from different parts of the world. Hybrid hearings are good to involve those not actively participating in the hearing, but are less effective for those arguing the case virtually if opposing counsel is present physically.
Q: In your opinion, where does the future of international arbitration lie?
A: In upcoming economies.
Q: What is the best work-related advice you have received?
A: Do fewer assignments really well, rather than more assignments averagely.
Q: What is your favourite Singapore delicacy?
A: Satay with cucumber.
Q: How do you wind down after work? What is your guilty pleasure?
A: Hiking with my family, riding my bike, playing tennis or golf. Guilty pleasures: Whittaker chocolate.
Albert spending time with family
Q: Lastly, share with us your favourite corner in Maxwell Chambers or Maxwell Chambers Suites.
A: The courtyard garden in Maxwell Chambers Suites is cool and beautiful.