Introductory Remarks by Michael Wood

By Wood, Michael | Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law, Annual 2012 | Go to article overview

Introductory Remarks by Michael Wood


Wood, Michael, Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law


Our subject is the preparation of cases before international courts and tribunals. We plan to cover the logistics and overall coordination of the case, the organization of the legal and technical teams, general issues of litigation strategy, coordination and assignment of different roles among counsel, agents, home team representatives and experts, oral advocacy, examination of witnesses, techniques to reduce costs, and so on.

The subject of this panel, the preparation of cases before international courts and tribunals, is an aspect of international litigation that is largely hidden from view--although panel members have put together quite an extensive list of writings on the subject, which we have made available here. (1) But it is of great practical importance. Unless the team is properly composed, and preferably properly composed early on, this can have a very adverse effect on the presentation of the case.

I shall begin with a few comments of my own on the composition of a legal team, especially for an inter-state case.

The composition of a legal team is ultimately a matter for the client, perhaps advised by the first team member who is approached. It naturally depends in large part on the subject matter of the case and the forum, but there are other factors. On the one hand is cost; on the other is the political need to be seen to be pulling out all the stops. The latter factor may lead to an inflated team, which is almost as bad--and perhaps more common--as a team that is too small. Will the members of the team get on well together? It is--or should be-a team, working collegiately, not a set of individuals working in isolation, however eminent. That does not mean they have necessarily worked together already. Indeed, there may be advantages, in terms of new thinking and new approaches, in not always working with the same people. A team needs to have the right mix of skills, including practitioner/academic and linguistic (English and French?).

An interesting question that I hope we can touch on is the role of law firms in international litigation. A recent "client alert" (from a London-based law firm) contained the following statement:

   Observers of international boundary litigation will note that, yet
   again, the party whose team was led by a law firm has prevailed
   over the party whose team did not include a law firm. This confirms
   the trend of the increasing professionalisation of public
   international law adjudication over the past decade or more.

Leaving aside whether this was an accurate statement in relation to the particular case (questionable), is the general proposition true? …

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