What does your role involve?
Being a partner in any large commercial law firm in 2007 involves an array of responsibilities. It includes the traditional role of legal adviser, which now increasingly encompasses the provision of both legal and commercial advice. It also involves leadership of legal teams - lawyers, paralegals and support staff - which to me means taking a genuine interest in those people and in their careers and (to a certain extent provided they are comfortable with this) in their lives outside Freehills.
As a partner in the litigation section of the firm, my practice includes advising and representing clients who find themselves in (or approaching) a commercial dispute, generally with a cross-border element. From day-to-day, I might be drafting documents, reporting to the board of a listed company, appearing as counsel in international arbitral proceedings or facilitating negotiations between parties to avoid litigation.
What are the best aspects of your role?
The best aspects of the role are the constant challenges and the variety of the work and the opportunities for interaction with clients and people at Freehills. I like knowing that whatever I have planned for the day is very likely to change during the course of the day - as a litigator you need to be able to think and respond quickly when clients call and to have the ability to put together a strategy and implement it at short notice. I also enjoy the travel which my international arbitration practice requires (particularly when my husband and three small children are able to travel with me).
What makes a good arbitrator?
A good arbitrator needs to be organised, intuitive and, obviously, on top of the legal issues in any case he or she is hearing. For me, it is sometimes a challenge, to set aside some of the skills I apply as legal counsel and move into an independent and adjudicative role when I sit as arbitrator. A good arbitrator will be firm with the parties and work with them to ensure that the arbitration process is efficient and effective - they expect the arbitrator to recognise that one of the reasons they have elected to have their disputes arbitrated is to meet commercial imperatives. Communication skills are also essential - as is a respect for the parties appearing before you.
Why are Hong Kong and Singapore being used for international arbitration?
Both Hong Kong and Singapore are recognised as international centres for arbitration. Their success is no doubt due in part to their geographic location, although there are other considerations, such as court support for party autonomy in selecting arbitration.
Singapore also offers a mediation centre which is attractive to parties involved in arbitration where the place of arbitration (or the forum) is Singapore. In my view, mediation is generally under-used to resolve cross-border disputes - I expect that this will change in the future if issues such as the enforceability of settlement agreements obtained through mediation can be overcome.
Where would you like to go professionally?
I always find this a difficult question to answer. I am enjoying the challenge of my practice combining both commercial litigation and international arbitration and I have some pride in the fact that I am able to combine this practice with family commitments. I have worked hard to achieve recognition both within the legal profession in Australia and overseas for the purpose of my international dispute work, and I would like to build on that recognition in the next few years. It is also important to me to make a contribution to the development of the law and legal profession in Australia which I achieve through, for example, my current roles on the federal Attorney-General's International Legal Services Advisory Council and within the Law Council. Like any professional, from time to time I am tempted to run away to the beach, but I know deep down that I would be unlikely to stray anywhere far from the law.
Bronwyn Lincoln's practice encompasses a range of litigious and non-litigious matters, primarily of a major commercial nature. She has experience and expertise in international commercial arbitration and trans-national disputes. She is a graded arbitrator, and was appointed to the International Legal Services Advisory Council in 2004.
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