Former Clifford Chance arbitration head departs for Twenty Essex

Audley Sheppard KC is latest leading practioner to become an independent arbitrator

Audley Sheppard KC, Clifford Chance’s (CC’s) former co-head of international arbitration, has left the UK Magic Circle firm to become an independent arbitrator at Twenty Essex.

Sheppard, who joined Coward Chance in 1986 ahead of the merger that created Clifford Chance, will take up his new position in June having been a consultant at CC for the past year.

News of his departure comes hard on the heels of the announcement that Herbert Smith Freehills’ (HSF) longstanding head of arbitration, Paula Hodges KC, is leaving the firm at the end of the month, also to become an independent arbitrator.

Sheppard is currently a vice president of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration, which will hold its biannual congress in Hong Kong in May, and a former chair of the board and vice president of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA). 

He has been appointed as an arbitrator or acted as counsel in numerous high-value arbitrations under different institutional rules and is particularly skilled in disputes arising from infrastructure and energy projects, international trade and investment.

He has been a New Zealand member of the ICC International Court of Arbitration and Arbitration Commission, co-chair of the IBA Arbitration Committee and rapporteur of the International Law Association arbitration committee. He also has a prominent role in sports arbitration, serving as board chair of Sport Resolutions.

Sheppard took silk in 2015, having been admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales in 1990 and a barrister and solicitor in New Zealand in 1985.

Philip Edey KC and Charles Kimmins KC, co-heads of chambers at Twenty Essex, described Sheppard as “a phenomenally experienced and skilled arbitration practitioner whose numerous international appointments speak to his deep expertise and outstanding reputation”.

Sheppard added: “I am looking forward to spending more time as an arbitrator and am excited by the opportunity to join Twenty Essex, given its outstanding reputation.”

He will join other prominent former solicitors including Philippa Charles, who joined from Stewarts in 2023, Singapore-based Sarah Grimmer, who joined from HKIAC in 2022, and Nigel Rawding KC, who joined from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in 2021. 

Sheppard’s arrival will augment the set’s roster of very senior arbitrators. They include Bill Rowley KC, Yves Fortier KC, Michael Lee and David Sutton; former judges like Sir Martin Moore-Bick and Sir Peter Gross; and former advocates David Owen KC, Clare Ambrose and Alex Layton KC.  

CC’s Jason Fry KC, previously co-head of global arbitration with Sheppard, is now the sole leader of that team. A fellow New Zealander and the former secretary-general of the ICC International Court of Arbitration, Fry rejoined the firm in 2012, based in Paris, having previously been a partner there from 1999 to 2007. He later took silk in 2020. 

Marie Berard, UK head of arbitration, said: “I congratulate Audley as he embarks on this new journey. After an impressive 36-year tenure, we are deeply grateful for his outstanding leadership within our global arbitration practice and, more recently, for his contributions as a consultant to the firm.” 

Berard noted Sheppard’s arrival meant he had joined “a prestigious cohort of fellow arbitrators” and “marked the beginning of an exciting chapter”.

HSF’s Hodges expressed similar confidence in her contemporary. “Having seen Audley in action as counsel, arbitrator and chairman of the LCIA, I do not doubt that Audley’s career will continue to sparkle at Twenty Essex,” she said.

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