The end of an era as HSF’s arbitration head Paula Hodges bows out

After 16 years at the helm, Hodges will hand reins to new practice co-heads, reports Ben Rigby

Paula Hodges KC

The start of next month will mark a new beginning for Herbert Smith Freehills’ (HSF’s) arbitration practice. 

The firm has announced a change of leadership with Paula Hodges making way for Simon Chapman KC and Andrew Cannon, who will co-head the practice.

Hodges, who will retire from the firm’s partnership, has led HSF’s global arbitration practice for more than 16 years, growing it significantly both in size and prestige: it boasts 50 partners across 19 offices worldwide managing a portfolio of claims exceeding $100bn.

She has been instrumental in fostering a culture of collaboration across the firm’s international offices while making a series of key appointments. For example, she hired Patricia Nacimiento in 2016 and the arbitration specialist now leads the German disputes practice. And she artfully built up the practice strategically, setting up an Australian arbitration hub in 2023 headed by Chad Catterwell and James Allsop, who relocated from Japan.

Last year, she strengthened the London arbitration team by relocating Christian Leathley from New York and Mike McClure KC from Seoul, following the firm’s decision to close its office there.

Departures have been individual, rather than team moves. They include Matthew Weiniger KC, who traded up to join Magic Circle firm Linklaters as head of practice in 2015. Larry Shore exited to join Italian firm Bonelli Erede in 2017, Emmanuelle Cabrol left to join Ashurst in Paris in 2018, and Thomas Weinman joined Jones Day in Germany in 2021.

Notably, Hodges has celebrated the promotion of three arbitration specialists to HSF’s partnership in each of the last two years – no mean feat.

Last year, Hannah Ambrose and Charlie Morgan were promoted in London and Catrice Gayer joined the partnership in Germany. This year, it is the turn of Murphy Mok in Hong Kong, Emily Fox in Paris and Marco de Sousa in New York.

Hodges also has a track record of helping to further the careers of the firm’s solicitor advocates, including Adam Johnson KC (now Mr Justice Johnson), Chris Parker KC, as well as McClure and Chapman. 

She said she was “incredibly proud of what we have achieved; one of the true pleasures has been watching so many talented and dedicated lawyers grow and succeed as arbitration practitioners over the years, whether they have stayed within the firm or left for pastures new”.

And her influence within the firm extends beyond her practice group. One notable team member is CEO Justin D’Agostino, who became, with Hodges’ support, global head of disputes prior to assuming leadership of the firm

“Paula has been a mentor and an inspiration to me personally,” he said, “not just as the driving force in making our international arbitration practice one of the best in the world, but also as a pioneer for diversity in the broader arbitration community. She will be missed greatly at our firm, and I wish her an exciting chapter in what has been an illustrious career so far.’

Numerous personal achievements and accolades have marked Hodges’ tenure. She was awarded the title of Queen’s Counsel – now King’s Counsel – in 2014 and has served as the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) president since 2019. Her expertise in international arbitration, particularly in the energy sector and Africa-related disputes, has had market recognition. 


As for her successors, Chapman is currently the regional head of dispute resolution in Asia and is known for his work in investment treaty work and commercial arbitration, including complex claims involving fraud and breach of warranty. He has extensive experience appearing before leading arbitration centres and frequently serves as an arbitrator. He will lead the practice group in the East. 

Cannon, the new co-head (West) alongside Chapman, brings a wealth of management experience from his roles within the firm, including head of the public international law practice and the India disputes group. He has a notable track record advising states, state-owned entities, and major companies on international investor-state and commercial arbitrations under various governing laws.

The firm’s decision to split the workload arguably reflects the role’s demands in the practice’s current guise while facilitating the bedding down of a new generation of leaders. It mirrors similar arrangements at other leading firms.  

Chapman commented: “Arbitration remains in the ascendance as the cross-border dispute resolution forum of choice – yet there are also challenges ahead, from global political uncertainty to disruptive technologies such as AI. Against this backdrop, I look forward to working closely with Andrew to advance our shared strategy for the practice.”


Hodges, meanwhile, will continue her association with the LCIA as its president until May 2025 and will also engage in independent arbitrator appointments on her own account, following in the footsteps of eminent contemporaries who held the top roles at rival firms. 

They include Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Nigel Rawding QC, who joined Twenty Essex, and Allen & Overy’s Matthew Gearing KC, who joined Fountain Court, both in 2021, Audley Sheppard KC, who handed over the leadership of Clifford Chance’s practice last year and now serves the International Council of Commercial Arbitrators in a senior role, and David W Rivkin and Donald Donovan, once of Debevoise, who are now independent arbitrators.

“We will miss Paula as our friend and colleague very much,” said Craig Tevendale, HSF’s London head of arbitration. “Throughout her career, Paula has embodied and lived every day the best of the values we aspire to in the group and the wider firm.”

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