“I feel valued not only as a ‘fee earner’ but also as a human being”
This Autumn, Tatiana Minaeva, formerly counsel in Jones Day and an international arbitration lawyer, became partner of RPC in London. Tatiana currently represents investors in investor-state arbitrations against governments of the CIS countries, and the Central Asian state in the arbitration under the ICSID Additional Facility Rules. She was a co-panelist with international arbitrator Peter M. Wolrich (see interview with him) at the ABA/RAA Conference in Moscow this September. We talk with Tatiana about her move to an English law firm from a U.S. company.
Why did you switch from Jones Day to RPC?
I knew of RPC's reputation as a well-known disputes firm and I always kept an eye on them given the interesting work they have been involved in. I had been impressed by their litigation team and their work in particular for Russian clients. I knew that the region was a focus for the firm and they were looking to grow their arbitration practice. The firm also had a number of respected arbitration practitioners, such as Jonathan Wood, who chairs Board of Trustees of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and I thought my experience fitted perfectly into their team and strategic focus. During my conversations with various lawyers and non-lawyers across the firm, I was also immediately struck by RPC's collaborative and friendly work environment. This was an important aspect for me, as leaving Jones Day was not an easy decision and I wanted to make sure my next employer would offer an equally supportive work culture.
In 2000 you graduated from MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations) and worked at ILFs in Moscow. In 2010, you became a senior associate at Stephenson Harwood in England. How did you manage to get to work in the UK?
It was by chance! I went to Vienna to take part as an arbitrator in the Willem C. Vis. International Commercial Arbitration Moot, where I sat on the same panel with an arbitration partner from Stephenson Harwood. A year later, Stephenson Harwood was instructed on a number of litigation and arbitration matters and the firm was looking to strengthen their team with a Russian speaking arbitration lawyer who had experience with arbitration cases. Stephenson Harwood approached me to and asked whether I would be interested in joining their team. To tell the truth, at the time I was fascinated by Paris. This being said, I decided to accept the offer and give London a chance. I said to myself, let's give it a year, fast forward 10 years and I now think that my decision was the right one! I would say, it was a case of London finding me, rather than the other way round.
At the conference "Resolution of commercial disputes with the participation of parties from the CIS countries", which was held by the American Bar Association jointly with the RAA on September 18 in Moscow, you talked about bifurcation in arbitration. Why did you choose this topic?
In my experience, bifurcation often takes place in investor-state arbitrations involving Central Asian states, where a number of arguments are raised by the state on the illegality of investments, as part of the strategy "to kill" a claim at the outset of proceedings. Arbitrators often consider those allegations and may at the request of the party split the proceedings into two phases: "jurisdictional" and "on the merits". This, of course, involves a number of issues, whether such a decision was indeed founded, as "bifurcation", if unsuccessful, it would extend the proceedings by 2 years!
“I will move to London, I will dream about Moscow,” says a verse by a Russian singer Grigory Leps. Do you dream about Moscow?
I was born and went to school in Moscow. I then studied at MGIMO. By default, Moscow will always be home and I will continue to dream about it, as the song says. On a personal level, I am proud of my home city and Moscow will always have a special place in my heart. At the same time, I have been in London for long enough now to feel "at home" here too. London is the hub for international disputes, and as such it is quite exciting to work here as an international disputes lawyer. That said, the nature of complex disputes work today is so international that lawyers can be based all over the world. Who knows where life will take me in another 10 years…
How is the work in an English law firm different from working in an American one?
Good question! It is hard to generalise, as it differs from law firm to law firm. What I really like about RPC is their approach towards a healthy work/life balance and fostering a friendly/collaborative environment. I have also been impressed with the firm's support around career development. At RPC I feel valued not only as a "fee earner" but also as a human being. Also, it is probably not a disadvantage to be based in the firm's largest office and being close to the firm's centre of gravity.
You have represented Canadian mining companies in arbitrations against Kazakhstan. After that, have you been elected as a representative of a party from the CIS in arbitration?
Of course. I have been acting on a number of high profile arbitration cases (both investor-state and commercial) involving parties from CIS. I also sit as arbitrator on a number of commercial arbitration proceedings with parties from CIS.
Do you plan to combine the work in the new law firm with acting as an arbitrator?
I enjoy my work as an arbitrator as much as my work as a counsel. Acting as arbitrator involves different skill sets that require practice and continuous development. Hence, it is very difficult for young arbitration lawyers to get their first appointments. Having set as arbitrator on a number of cases I know how arbitrators think and what drives them into taking current decisions. Given this experience, my advice to your readers would be – be thoughtful who you pick as your arbitrator, a good arbitrator is a quasi-representative of a party within the tribunal.
How do you see the key tasks of your practice at RPC in the near future?
Naturally, I will continue to do what I am good at, namely look to secure interesting kind of work for my team and build new relationships. I am keen to continue to build on the solid foundation of RPC's strong litigation practice and open new doors for the firm with former Soviet Union countries as well as Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
By Dmitry Artyukhov,