Claudia Salomon’s rise to the top of the International Court of Arbitration
Published in 2022 Upstate New York Super Lawyers magazine
By Steph Weber on August 25, 2022
In July 2021, Claudia Salomon began a three-year term as president of the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Court of Arbitration. It was a groundbreaking moment. She was both the first woman and the first person from North America to hold the position.
The ICC, which began in the aftermath of World War I, “engages with people from all over the world as we do the work of the Court to review draft arbitration awards and assess challenges to arbitrators to assure independence and impartiality,” Salomon says. In the last year alone, cases have involved parties from 145 countries and multiple sectors, including construction, energy, technology and life sciences. Amounts in dispute ranged from less than $10,000 to $27 billion.
Salomon, who has more than 25 years of international arbitration experience, says such statistics demonstrate that “companies large and small recognize that ICC is a dispute-resolution mechanism they trust.”
So how did the opportunity to lead the institution arise? She credits her predecessor, Paris-based lawyer Alexis Mourre.
“He had the audacity in 2017 to insist on gender parity of the Court,” Salomon says, “and I certainly benefit from the work he did, and so much work by other people to focus on diversity broadly defined in international arbitration.”
Overall, she says, great strides have been made toward the organization’s 2016 pledge to reduce the gender gap and achieve equal representation in arbitration. Not only were 88 women and 88 men from 116 countries appointed as members in 2018, but nine of the 17 vice presidency positions were filled by women, too. Salomon was one of them.
Salomon launched her career in Virginia, later practicing in Arizona and the Czech Republic before landing in New York State in 2005. While working at DLA Piper, in 2006, she became involved in ICC initiatives, serving on various international arbitration task forces and committees.
In 2013, she moved to Latham & Watkins, where she was a partner and co-chair of the firm’s international arbitration practice through 2020. As outside counsel, she maintained a steady presence with the ICC, gaining membership to the International Court of Arbitration in 2015, then ascending to vice president, and now, president.
She’s coming in just as pandemic travel restrictions are being loosened.
“We have a number of major regional conferences and other meetings around the globe,” Salomon says. “I’m going to be traveling to 10 countries in two months: Dubai, Lagos, Mexico City, Singapore, and a whole variety of other countries in between. I feel like I’m doing a year’s worth of travel in a few months because so much got postponed or otherwise rescheduled.”
Salomon says there has been a “real shift” in client expectations in recent years, prompting a need to elevate the client experience—a mindset she’s ready to integrate into arbitration policies on a global scale.
“I want to assure that every aspect of international arbitration has a client mindset and that we are focused on identifying ways in which the parties can be more engaged in the process,” she says. To that end, Salomon has conducted roundtables with in-house counsel worldwide, listening to their concerns and brainstorming ways to deepen engagement and bridge communication gaps.
One potential solution is copying in-house counsel on communications from the tribunal and arbitral institutions so information is received in real-time rather than filtered through outside counsel, Salomon says. Another is encouraging in-house counsel to participate in virtual case management conferences. “If they attend rather than just their outside counsel, again, they’ll have the opportunity to consider some of the timing issues and other procedural issues in real-time,” she says.
Like her predecessor, Salomon is a staunch advocate of greater diversity and inclusion among arbitrators—from gender, racial, ethnic, and geographic diversity to disability and LGBT+ inclusion. In her first week in office, the ICC announced a task force on disability inclusion, with guidelines coming next year to foster an inclusive environment across the industry.
“The global business community is incredibly diverse, so ensuring parties have arbitrators who reflect that will only strengthen the legitimacy of international arbitration,” Salomon says. “I really feel privileged to have this opportunity to shape the institution as we position ourselves for, we hope, the next hundred years.” s
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