'An inspirational mentor, teacher, and colleague': Emmanuel Gaillard (1952-2021)

Emmanuel Gaillard, one of the greatest arbitration lawyers of his generation, has died aged 69

Paris-based Emmanuel Gaillard will be remembered as a 'once-in-a-generation' lawyer Shutterstock

Internationally renowned French arbitration lawyer Emmanuel Gaillard passed away unexpectedly last Thursday, his firm Gaillard Banifatemi Shelbaya Disputes confirmed.

In a statement, the firm said 69-year-old Gaillard was “a totem in the world of international arbitration, and a source of inspiration for lawyers across the world. Arbitrators, practitioners, academics, and clients universally admired his brilliance, integrity, humanity and dedication.”

An energetic advocate for arbitration, whether investment arbitration or business disputes, Gaillard’s ‘vision and intellectual contributions framed the development of international arbitration’, the firm said, adding that his contributions would ‘influence practitioners and academics for years to come’.

Gaillard’s passing comes just two months after he left Shearman & Sterling to launch arbitration boutique Gaillard Banifatemi Shelbaya Disputes with former Shearman colleagues Mohamed Shelbaya and Yas Banifatemi. 

Gaillard – who founded Shearman’s arbitration practice in 1987 – had been a cornerstone of the US firm’s international disputes offering, having led it for more than 30 years. He also served two terms as managing partner of Shearman’s Paris office, from 1997-2005 and from 2007 until he left the firm earlier this year.

His departure to form the new arbitration-only boutique was seen as a seminal moment, equivalent to the 2014 foundation of fellow boutique Three Crowns, led by his great contemporary and former Freshfields lawyer Jan Paulsson.

Best known for his work in representing former shareholders of Yukos against Russia in a long-running $50bn arbitration and related enforcement proceedings, he was also active in Africa-related arbitration. Most notably, in 2018 he represented Angolan energy company Sonangol in a $2.2bn energy dispute, one of the highlights of a 30-year career in which he made more than 350 appearances as counsel.

Gaillard chaired the International Arbitration Institute and the Arbitration Academy, and had visiting teaching commitments at Harvard, Yale and Geneva. He was also active in French arbitration institutions and a supporter of Paris Arbitration Week.  

Tributes from leading arbitration lawyers were swift and heartfelt. Michael Ostrove, co-head of DLA Piper’s international arbitration group, said it was a ‘tremendous loss’, while Hogan Lovells’ Samaa Haridi, co-chair of the International Bar Association’s arbitration committee, said: “So many members of our community benefited from his immense intellect and generosity,” a sentiment which was echoed by many.

Former Shearman colleagues added their own tributes on LinkedIn, with antitrust partner James Webber saying Gaillard ‘was a giant figure at our firm and in his field for so long’, while Barney Reynolds, the firm’s global head of finance, said Gaillard ‘was a hugely valued and respected colleague and friend’.

Acknowledging the wide respect in which Gaillard was held, his firm said: “Above all, Emmanuel was a protective father, a close friend and a cherished colleague. His wit, humour and youthful energy made working with him not only educational, but immeasurably pleasurable.”

It added: “We are determined to honour his memory by continuing to grow Gaillard Banifatemi Shelbaya Disputes with the same integrity, dedication and creativity which he has taught us.”

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