Interview Series - Daniel Waldek

#10QuestionswithMaxwell Interview Series: Daniel Waldek, Herbert Smith Freehills

In this #10QuestionsWithMaxwell interview, we feature Daniel Waldek, a partner at Herbert Smith Freehills. He is also a member of the Maxwell Steering Committee.

Dan specialises in construction,  energy, and infrastructure disputes. He has acted as counsel in arbitrations relating to onshore and offshore oil and gas projects, pipelines, major petrochemical developments, renewable and conventional power projects, as well as road, rail, water, airport and urban development projects. Dan has advised on complex claims under a large range of construction contracts (both bespoke and standard form) covering design and build, turnkey, EPCIC and EPCM arrangements, as well as production sharing contracts, offtake and feedstock supply agreements, and concession agreements. 

Dan regularly appears as counsel in arbitrations under a range of institutional rules, including the ICC, LCIA, and SIAC, and in ad hoc arbitrations, including as an advocate for both interim applications and substantive merits hearings. Dan also advises on arbitration related court proceedings including jurisdictional challenges, set aside applications as well as enforcement proceedings. Dan has also been appointed as arbitrator by institutions such as the SIAC.

He is also able to bring to bear his thorough knowledge of mediation and other alternative forms of dispute resolution to assist his clients to achieve successful settlements. 

Dan’s practice also involves a significant advisory component, in particular working closely with transactional teams on risk avoidance and mitigation strategies. He places emphasis on his clients’ needs for realistic, down to earth advice in a commercial context.

The Legal Directories have consistently recognised Dan as a leading arbitration lawyer.  Chambers Global 2022 describes him as a “knowledgeable and experienced international arbitration lawyer who is able to provide strategic and practical advice”. Legal 500 notes that Dan is “a very bright, energetic and resourceful arbitration lawyer. Willing to spend time and effort to bring innovative solutions to difficult problems. Quick on his feet in hearings”.

In this interview, he shared how he became involved in international arbitration, a mentor or an influential figure he looks up to throughout his career, the best work-related advice he had received, and more.

Read his full interview below:

Q: How did you become involved in international arbitration? 

A: I didn’t plan to! Before I moved to Singapore in 2011, I worked as a commercial disputes lawyer in the British Virgin Islands. After working there for a number of years on some really interesting litigation cases (such as the Bernard Madoff fraud), my (now) wife and I decided to leave the British Virgin Islands in 2011 and look for pastures new in Asia. At that time, an opportunity came up with Herbert Smith Freehills, who were growing an international arbitration practice in Singapore.  So we decided to move from one small island to another slightly larger island, and the rest is – as they say – history.

Q: Share with us your arbitration style and practices.

A: I think that a no-nonsense approach is to be preferred. Advocacy is always important, but I often find that some lawyers focus too much on that and less on the fundamental issues in dispute. What are the facts? What does the contract and the law say? And distilling this down to the core issues that the tribunal need to determine. 

Q: What is the most interesting arbitration you have been a part of? 

A: I have been involved for a number of years in a very large and complex arbitration relating to the development of a refinery in Asia.  It has involved pretty much every conceivable type of claim you could imagine arising from a construction project. One of the highlights of my work with the client on the arbitration has been visiting the project site, which is in a very remote location. I have always been amazed by the size and complexity of what was built, and impressed the knowledge and expertise of those working there. 

Q: If you could change one thing about the arbitral system, what would it be?

A: Despite great efforts from many in the arbitral community, I believe that there is still a long way to go to increase diversity of those involved, whether that be counsel, arbitrators or experts.  We should all be striving to challenge conscious and unconscious decision making in the process of making appointments.  

Q: What qualities do you think clients look for when selecting an arbitrator?

A: It always varies from case to case.  But in general, I think most clients want someone who is familiar with the subject matter of the dispute (and therefore not ‘learning on the job’) and someone who will not be afraid to make robust procedural decisions. 

Q: What steps do practitioners need to take to maintain their profile in the arbitration community? 

A: Putting in the hard work on the cases and other activities you work can never fail you.  Whether it is being seen to write crisp submissions, carrying out a devastating cross-examination, writing a useful article or speaking on an interesting topic at an event, someone will notice.  After all, it’s a small arbitration world…

Q: Do you have a mentor or an influential figure that you look up to throughout your career? Share with us.

A: I have been fortunate enough to work with Alastair Henderson for over 11 years now, who has offered me unwavering support throughout my time at Herbert Smith Freehills.  As a skilled advocate, a fantastic team leader and a strong developer of client relationships, I have always felt like I have been learning from one of the best in the field.  I will always be grateful to him for taking a chance on me 11 years ago, and for his ongoing guidance. 

Q: What skills and traits would you encourage in the next generation of dispute resolution lawyers?

A: Be flexible, open-minded and spend time getting to understand the industries with which you work. 

Q: What is the best work-related advice you have received?

A: Law firms, arbitrations and clients will always come and go.  But family is here to stay and always comes first! 

Q: Lastly, share with us your fondest memories of Maxwell Chambers.

A: I have many good memories of hearings at Maxwell Chambers. But perhaps the best memories are those from events bringing together colleagues and friends from across the industry.  These were sadly missed during COVID, so it is great that we can once again gather at the new and improved Maxwell chambers. 


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