#10QuestionswithMaxwell Interview Series: Tejus Chauhan, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)
Tejus took the reigns from former Regional Director Abhinav Bhushan. After completing studies in trade and law in India, he worked for a law firm and one of the Big Four as a forensic and dispute expert. He also previously worked on the promotion and business development of ICC Arbitration and ADR in India for three years.
In this interview, he shared about his onward plans for ICC, how younger ADR practitioners can best position themselves in the current market, top 3 lessons he learned throughout his years practicing law, and more.
Read his full interview below:
Q: How has it been since taking on your current position as the Regional Director of ICC International Court of Arbitration? Could you share with us your onward plans for ICC?
A: Two words: busy and exciting. It is great to be in Singapore and be around colleagues and friends that I have known over the last few years.
As the institutional representative of over 45 million companies in more than 100 countries, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and its International Court of Arbitration continues to grow. Asia is both an important and integral part of our growth story. We have several projects and initiatives that we are working on such as the belt and road initiative. As an arbitral institution, world class client-focused service is what we are best at and it remains center stage of our strategy. The use of technology and initiatives to improve diversity and inclusivity are also at the heart of what we do, so those will also see more push from us in the next few years. In recent years, we have become more aware of untapped industries driven by talented groups of lawyers and entrepreneurs, so we look forward to meeting and working together with them.
Q: When you began your legal career, did you ever imagine that you would be in your current position?
A: This position – certainly not! However, as would any young practitioner, I did aspire on achieving great heights and am delighted to be here in this position. Such is life – unpredictable and exciting.
Q: In the 2021 international arbitration survey by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and global law firm White & Case, ICC stood out yet again as the most preferred institution among arbitration providers worldwide. What are your thoughts on this achievement?
A: Personally, it feels great to be part of a global institution that is recognized and trusted worldwide. It is a testament to the work that has been done by the ICC over 100 years to provide effective dispute resolution which is vital to trade and investment, and an enabler of the ICC purpose to enable business to secure peace prosperity and opportunity for all. However, we are conscious of the fact that we cannot rest on our achievements. To become a true partner for and adapting to the changing needs and requirements of our clients is crucial. The ICC Court is ahead of the field but I would say that there is always so much more to do.
Q: What professional challenges are you anticipating in the ADR space for the coming few years, and how do you plan to navigate them?
A: I would say the ADR market in certain jurisdictions is becoming even more saturated. The clients have many and I would go as far to say – too many options of types of ADR mechanisms and service providers. Legal practitioners need to keep themselves abreast of business and trade development too in addition to legal development. Whilst arbitration is said to be the most preferred ADR mechanism in resolving cross-border disputes, the QMUL & White & Case 2021 International Arbitration Survey states that the majority of users indeed prefer arbitration together with ADR. We at ICC navigate this challenge by looking and more importantly – understanding different markets with different needs and preferences, and we circle back to what the ICC Court and our International Centre for ADR can offer, that is, all-round dispute resolution services that makes business work for everyone, everywhere!
Q: Virtual and hybrid hearings are becoming the new norm. Could you share 1 key challenge and opportunity from this change?
A: One key challenge is of course adaptation to ever changing travel restrictions and the increasing use of technology for virtual and hybrid hearings. One day you may be able to travel and have in person meetings or hearing, but the next day the rules may change, and you are back to a completely virtual setting with different time zones. Be that as it may, opportunities often arise from the most difficult situations. When you envision to maintain business continuity and confidence in ADR mechanisms, as a service provider, you have to go above and beyond the ask. The pandemic presents an opportunity for us to demonstrate our agility, creating new lines of services from our enhanced understanding of client requirements.
Q: How might younger ADR practitioners’ best position themselves in the current market?
A: Two things: be patient and resilient and network the right way. Great things in life do not come instantly – one must work for it and utilize the opportunity that comes your way to the best of your ability. Our ICC Young Arbitrators Forum certainly helps young arbitrators understand this and build the future network that will be vital to a successful career.
One cannot be an expert in international arbitration without first building expertise throughout their practice, know exactly the ‘niche of your niche’ as you progress in your career. This is where having a mentor is crucial as you cannot build a career entirely on your own. You need guidance, that bit of a ‘push’ to work on something new or even challenging and having a sounding board from time to time. Value your mentor and by the time you become someone else’s mentor you must value your mentee too. Everything else in your professional life pretty much flows from there.
Networking is very important at this day and age. However, it is even more important to do it the right way. I have a rule that though my work requires me to identify and even target certain individuals to network with, I generally never pick and choose who I should approach and get to know. International ADR community is such a small community, and the more you know people and build trusting working relationship with them, the better.
Q: Throughout your career, who was (or were) your biggest inspiration(s)?
A: I would not point out one but instead say that I have found inspiration in a lot of people doing things that I think were truly commendable. It could be a counsel who got back to India to defend undertrials who cannot afford legal representation, a sole earning woman who would work three jobs to feed her family or an old man who does not want to retire and keep busy at the age of 80.
Q: What are the top 3 lessons you have learned throughout your years practicing law?
A: 1. Real learning happened after law school.
2. It is okay to change goals – you may set out to achieve something and during the course find your calling elsewhere.
3. Stay humble and remember where you started from.
Q: To get to know you more on a personal level, share with us 3 fun facts not many know you!
A: 1. I wanted to become a DJ when I was in law school, still try my hand at parties and haven’t given that dream up yet.
2. I love water activities – I have dived before and want to get certified this year.
3. I think about food a lot and watch a lot of food vlogs during my free time (like a lot, seriously). I love Asian cuisine. One meal that I want to have again is from this Sichuan restaurant in Hong Kong that I had in 2019.
Q: Lastly, what is 1 thing you think of when we mention Maxwell Chambers?
A: World Class!