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ASA Prize for Advocacy: Laureate Panel Discusses Excellence in Advocacy and 2024 Winner Announced

The announcement of the 2024 laureate of the prestigious ASA Prize for Advocacy in International Commercial Arbitration was the pinnacle of this year’s ASA’s 50th birthday conference. More than three hundred international and Swiss arbitration practitioners gave standing ovations to the new laureate Rahim Moloo, who travelled from New York to Geneva for the ASA conference to receive the prize in person. 

Rahim Moloo, originally from Calgary, obtained his LLM from NYU before joining White & Case in Washington. He is currently a partner at Gibson Dunn in New York, co-chairing their arbitration practice. Rahim also teaches international arbitration at Columbia University. 

Rahim Moloo emerged as the deserving recipient of the ASA Advocacy Prize through a meticulous selection process led by a selection committee. The Selection Committee was composed of Utku Coşar of Arbitration Chambers located in Istanbul and New York, Jean Kalicki, independent arbitrator based in New York and Washington, Toby Landau from Duxton Hill Chambers in Singapore, Alexis Mourre from MCL Arbitration in Paris and Noradèle Radjai of LALIVE in Geneva.  

Nominations were gathered from over a thousand ASA members around the world. The Selection Committee, together with the input of the ASA Board, established – from thirty nominations from twenty different countries – a shortlist of nine candidates from nine different countries on whom it then collected feedback from around twenty different arbitrators around the world who had recently interacted with the shortlisted candidates. Based on the feedback, the Selection Committee proposed a shortlist of four candidates to the ASA Executive Committee, consisting of Bernhard Berger of Kellerhals and Carrard, Felix Dasser of Homburger, Andrea Meier of Walder Wyss, Christoph Müller of University of Neuchâtel, as well as Noradèle Radjai, charged with the selection process. From this shortlist, the ASA Executive Committee selected Rahim Moloo as the laureate of the 2024 ASA Advocacy Prize. 

Following the announcement by ASA President Felix Dasser, Nadia Darwazeh of Clyde & Co in Paris and preceding laureate of the ASA Advocacy Prize, conducted an enlightening interview highlighting the pathway of Rahim Moloo into international arbitration and his extraordinary advocacy skills. 

The prize-winning ceremony was preceded by an engaging panel discussion between six former laureates of the ASA Advocacy Prize, namely Mohamed S. Abdel Wahab of Zulficar Partners in Kairo, Christopher Boog of Schellenberg Wittmer in Zurich and Singapore as well as newly elected President of the Arbitration Court of the Swiss Arbitration Centre, Melissa Magliana of LALIVE in Zurich, Philippe Pinsolle of Quinn Emanuel in Geneva, and Franz T. Schwarz of Wilmer Hale in London. 

Noradèle Radjai introduced the panel with a poignant statement, declaring, “Advocacy is at the very heart of what we do. And the pursuit of excellence in advocacy is at the heart of ASA – as an organisation made up of arbitrators, counsel, and users of international arbitration. That pursuit of excellence in advocacy is best exemplified by ASA’s unique advocacy prize which is awarded to those who have demonstrated exceptional talents of advocacy and international arbitration.” 

The panelists, under the skillful moderation of Nadia Darwazeh, then engaged in thought-provoking and entertaining discourse, addressing the evolving role of international arbitration advocates over the past five decades and contemplating the future trajectory of this critical role. They delved into the attributes that define an excellent advocate, emphasising the importance of storytelling, adaptability, preparation, and intellectual agility. 

Melissa Magliana initiated the discussions by inviting participants to reflect on the essence of advocacy, stating, “the core role of the advocate is to tell and convey a relevant story.” The panel concurred, underscoring the significance of understanding the audience and active listening in crafting compelling narratives. 

Christopher Boog highlighted the importance of adaptability in advocacy, accentuating the necessity of tailoring one’s approach to the specific context of each case. Franz T. Schwarz stressed the virtues of tenacity and thorough preparation, while Mohamed S. Abdel Wahab advocated for striking a balance between modesty and confidence. 

The panel also offered insights into pitfalls to avoid in advocacy, cautioning against starting with the wrong narrative, overcomplicating cases, refusing to engage with opposing counsel’s arguments, and lacking flexibility. 

Looking ahead, Franz T. Schwarz emphasised that technology’s advancement will make document volume irrelevant due to quick computation. The pandemic shifted advocacy towards remote hearings, fostering a more immersive experience with increased technical interactions, or “immersive advocacy”. This includes live manipulation of sample interactive quantum reports during proceedings, leading to the concept of immersive advocacy where boundaries between evidence, advocates, and tribunals blur. 

Felix Dasser comments that “I’ve always thought we’ve made excellent choices over the years. After hearing six of the laureates discussing, sometimes humorously contradicting each other and constantly giving excellent advice, I was sure of it. They were entertaining and enlightening. 

The ASA Prize for Advocacy 2024 ceremony and laureate panel discussion were part of ASA’s 50 years’ anniversary conference on 2 February 2024 in Geneva. Entitled “ASA at 50: Ready for the Future?”, the conference also offered discussions of the role of Switzerland in promoting peaceful settlement of disputes as well as a debate among user whether arbitration is well-positioned to meet the needs of users, today and tomorrow. 

The ASA conference was part of the Swiss Arbitration Summit, a first of its kind, gathering more than 500 arbitration practitioners in Geneva for lively discussions, social gatherings and a ski weekend in the Swiss Alps.