11 Oct 2021

‘A giant of international arbitration’ - tributes flood in for Professor J Martin Hunter

Lawyer whose career bridged law firms, chambers and academia is remembered for inspiring 'multiple generations'

Professor J Martin Hunter Image courtesy of Kluwer Arbitration Blog

Distinguished arbitrator Professor J Martin Hunter, formerly of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Essex Court Chambers, has passed away aged 84.

Hunter became a partner at Freshfields in 1967 having qualified there just three years before and was a mainstay of its arbitration department, mentoring younger partners like Nigel Rawding QC, who, with Hunter’s contemporaries Alan Redfern and Jan Paulsson, went on to build on the firm’s reputation in the 1990s and beyond.

Nigel Blackaby QC, co-head of Freshfields' arbitration group, praised Hunter’s work as one of the founding partners of the Magic Circle firm’s disputes practice, saying: “The role that Martin played in establishing Freshfields as the leading firm for international arbitration cannot be understated.”

Blackaby added: “Martin was a fantastic colleague and encouraging mentor to young lawyers; he was an inspiration to many and will be sorely missed. I extend my deepest sympathy to Martin’s family.”

Hunter was also vice-chairman of the UK government committee ultimately responsible for the Arbitration Act 1996, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

His work spanned all the major arbitral institutions and associations, particularly the International Chamber of Commerce, the Chartered Institute of Arbitration and the International Council for Commercial Arbitration.

Claudia Salomon, the ICC Court of Arbitration’s current president, said Hunter “stood as one of the giants of international arbitration, not only because of his accomplishments but because of his kindness, enthusiasm & support for multiple generations in the field.”

Hunter also served as chairman of the Dubai International Arbitration Centre’s outgoing board of trustees; DIAC being the principal beneficiary of controversial recent reforms to Dubai’s arbitral institutions.

Retiring from Freshfields in 1994, Hunter then moved to Essex Court Chambers, where he practised as an arbitrator, and remained equally active in both academia and dispute resolution.

He enjoyed a long association with Nottingham Trent University as a professor and visiting professorships at the University of Cologne and King’s College London, as well as similar posts across the globe.

Hunter was also one of the founding authors of Redfern and Hunter on International Arbitration – a seminal textbook on the subject – written since 1986 with his great friend Alan Redfern. The latest version is due to be published this year, with Hunter’s death and Redfern’s retirement closing the chapter on that memorable partnership.

Online tributes to Hunter were warm, with Cherie Booth QC, founder of Omnia Strategy, calling him “a distinguished academic and arbitrator and friend”.

However, the most heartfelt tributes came from Hunter’s former students and research assistants, including Alexis Martinez, an arbitration partner at Squire Patton Boggs, who said Hunter “had a knack for profoundly influencing the many people who crossed his path, be it at Freshfields, Essex Court, King’s College, London … the Vis Moot, [and] through his book.”

Others referenced Hunter’s connection with international studies, with Indian advocate Sameer Singh Chaudhry recalling: “Martin, through his jovial nature and unique ways … brought so many people and nationalities closer together.”

Students who worked as his research assistants were assigned numbers in the chronological order of their joining; one such, Florian Cahn, a former GC at French corporate Framatome, spoke for many in summing up Hunter.

“While intellectually brilliant and equipped with clarity of legal argument that kept stunning his peers and students, he radiated warmth and joie de vivre that made him bridge cultural and social divides and win even more hearts than his mind had already conquered.”