#10QuestionswithMaxwell Interview Series: Kent Phillips, Hogan Lovells
In this #10QuestionsWithMaxwell interview, we feature Kent Phillips, a partner at Hogan Lovells in Singapore. He is also a Mentor for the Maxwell Mentorship Programme (Technology in Alternative Dispute Resolution).
Kent has over 20 years experience as a dispute resolution lawyer, concentrating on international arbitration in both London and Singapore. He has conducted arbitrations under leading institutional rules in most major seats, under both civil and common applicable laws.
Kent’s extensive trial experience includes high-value commercial disputes across a number of sectors and jurisdictions. His time in London was spent leading disputes between high-profile Russian oligarchs, with merits hearing of claims involving some US$3 billion. Now based in Singapore, he is routinely involved in disputes relating to services and infrastructure in the resources, energy, and oil & gas sectors. These include construction and commodities matters and often involve Southeast Asia or India.
Kent conducts all stages of proceedings, from interim measures to advocacy at trial. He also holds full registration as a foreign lawyer to appear before the Singapore International Commercial Court.
For many years Kent has been recognised by major directories as a leading individual for International Arbitration. He regularly sits as an arbitrator and is on the SIAC panel, he is also a director of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators – Singapore branch.
In this interview, he shared the key qualities and skills he thinks an arbitrator should have, biggest change he had seen in relation to the way that arbitration proceedings are conducted, importance of mentoring and networking for the development of the field, and more.
Read his full interview below:
Q: What do you enjoy most about working in international arbitration?
A: Intellectual challenge – there is everything you get in litigation plus the cross border, cross cultural elements.
Q: What do you think are the key qualities and skills an arbitrator should have?
A: A willingness to listen with an open mind. A preparedness to make decisions. Cross-cultural understanding. In addition to the obvious need for attention to detail, critical thinking, analytical skills and strong legal ability. We expect so much of arbitrators!
Q: Since you began your career, what has been the biggest change you have seen in relation to the way that arbitration proceedings are conducted?
A: The shift away from national litigation procedures towards arbitration specific international norms – it’s an increasingly distinct area now.
Q: Share with us one of your most memorable experiences throughout your legal career.
A: I choose a day from the start of my career, as a junior lawyer in New Zealand flying to Wellington to appear solo in the Court of Appeal. My senior opponent bought me lunch, the judges were less generous but I learned a lot.
Q: Could you share the matters you are most active in at present?
A: Since I arrived from London in 2011 it has been a broad spread of commercial arbitration cases, generally Singapore seat arbitrations with an international element. We have just finished a merits hearing about marine cranes but over recent years it has been everything from heat exchangers, mobile phones and renewables to upstream oil & gas and toll roads. The biggest uptick is probably shareholder disputes and fallout from record M&A years of late. There are always construction disputes too. Client profile is international – often North Asia, US and Europe. I have kept two or three arbitral appointments a year alongside the counsel work.
Q: You are a Mentor on our Maxwell Mentorship Programme, what is one piece of invaluable advice you would give to our group of Mentees or other younger legal practitioners in entering the alternative dispute resolution field?
A: Good academics and attitude are important but a passion for this area is a key ingredient. You can spot that already in some of the extra-curricular activities with which our mentees are involved, much more so than in my time when becoming an arbitration lawyer was more of a gradual shift over from litigation.
Q: In your experience, how important are mentoring and networking for the development of the field?
A: Both are extremely important. I didn’t always appreciate how much I owe to mentors, with informal mentoring as valuable as more structured programmes. Networking is also more important for us in arbitration as so much takes place in private. It’s our chance to put problems into the spotlight and share solutions. It’s also a fun part of this job.
Q: To get to know you more on a personal level, share with us 3 fun facts about yourself.
A: a) I am part owner of a small café in Raffles Place – it’s a long, hot walk from Maxwell but there are plenty of arbitration lawyers.
b) I love old German cars – I have a 1980s BMW.
c) Best activity destination was Bhutan – the Jomolhari Trek. My feet still hurt.
Q: What is one thing that you have always wanted to do but have not had a chance to accomplish yet?
A: Private pilot’s licence.
Q: Lastly, what do you like most about Maxwell Chambers?
A: The facilities have set the standard internationally but above all, it’s flying the flag for Singapore arbitration.