Claire Morel de Westgaver
Claire Morel de Westgaver, Partner, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP
What is your position and what do you do on a day-to-day basis?
I am a partner in the International Arbitration and Construction Dispute group at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner. I advise and represent clients involved in cross-border disputes and arbitral proceedings. I also act as an arbitrator.
How long have you been in this role and what brought you here?
I have recently been promoted to partner, but I have been practicing international arbitration in London for the past 12 years or so. I have been in my current firm for the past 6 years.
What brought me to this profession is a list of topics I had to choose from for my final dissertation paper at university. I was then reading Law at University Catholic of Leuven (Belgium). International arbitration was not part of the curriculum then, but it was included in that list of potential topics, with a short description. International arbitration was described as a mix of contract law and private international law. These were my favourite courses at that time so I picked this subject and did my final dissertation on ex aequo et bono arbitration and knew since then that international arbitration was I wanted to do.
After studying in the US and qualifying in New York, I came to London where I started my career in private practice and became an English solicitor. My passion for international arbitration has not declined, and I consider myself as fortunate and privileged to be part of this profession.
What is the best and worst part of the day for you?
The best part of my day [in general] is waking up my three children in the morning. The best part of my workday is its collegial nature – the team spirit! What I enjoy the most is the relationships with clients and colleagues, finding new arguments and leads, building on each other’s ideas and sharing good results and moments, but also being there when it’s rough.
Any memorable cases or transactions?
My most memorable moments relate to hearings when something unexpected happened and also client satisfaction upon announcement of a good outcome. None of this I can share as it would involve disclosing confidential information. Travelling to remote and sometimes incongruous places also leaves me with fond memories.
What advice would you give to junior associates early in their career?
Keep a balanced life and make sure you do what you want to do (follow your heart…). The rest is likely to come naturally with a bit of persistence, courage and generosity. There are many things over which one doesn’t have control in a career (and life) but one thing one can control is one’s perspective on what happens.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
My first cross-examination, first appointment as an arbitrator, first award as sole arbitrator and first oral argument in French (my native language) after years of practicing in English.
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