Eric Z. Chang, Founder and Principal of LA-based Chang Law, speaks about key topics in international arbitration and the future of dispute resolution.
What is your current role in dispute resolution?
As counsel, I am a provider of dispute resolution. Although I act primarily in a counsel role, as with many practitioners in the international arbitration community, I also accept appointments as arbitrator.
My particular focus is on commercial international arbitration, and investor-state arbitration. I specialised in international arbitration because it is the pre-eminent dispute resolution mechanism in international transactions and international investment. International arbitration borrows from both civil law and common law concepts and practices, and clients from different legal systems also have different concepts of how dispute resolutions should be resolved.
I decided early on to focus my career from an international angle, and I hold law degrees from the United States and France, and have qualified in both legal systems (California, New York, Paris). My background thus lends itself to an international practice and, specifically, the hybrid nature of international arbitration.
Which processes do you use most frequently?
I am primarily counsel in international arbitration disputes, whether commercial or investor-state disputes. However, I also deal with mediation, most often in the context of multi-tiered arbitration clauses. Very often, such dispute resolution clauses call for amicable settlement attempts at the management level, and/or mediation, and only followed by arbitration if the prior steps do not resolve the dispute. Mediation can be ad hoc, or through institutional rules administered by such organisations as the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
How is the market currently addressing parties’ needs?
Broadly speaking, the international arbitration ‘market’ appears to meet parties’ needs. Certainly, the alternatives for international users (foreign court litigation without the possibility of easy worldwide recognition and enforcement) are not as attractive.
Most international users are fairly sophisticated and understand the available tools at their disposal – mediation, arbitration, other amicable settlement processes (within the construction industry, widely accepted model contracts such as FIDIC include high