The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
John Gardiner, Partner—Litigation
John L. Gardiner is global co-head of Skadden’s international litigation and arbitration group. He concentrates his practice in the resolution of complex, high-exposure, multijurisdictional disputes before leading arbitral institutions as well as before federal and state courts in the United States.
John repeatedly has been listed in Chambers Global: The World’s Leading Lawyers for Business, The Best Lawyers in America, International Who’s Who of Commercial Arbitration and Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business. His extensive litigation, arbitration, and mediation experience covers a wide range of disputes in the energy, insurance/reinsurance, telecommunications, construction, auditing and accounting, and finance sectors. John also has acted as arbitrator in complex international corporate disputes and as mediator in intricate corporate and partnership separation situations. He has participated as counsel in many successful mediations and expert proceedings both internationally and domestically.
John is a graduate of University College Dublin.
Please provide an overview of what, substantively, your practice area entails.
The international litigation and arbitration group represents clients in disputes before international arbitral institutions around the world, as well as before state and federal courts in the United States. We participate in all forms of alternative dispute resolution, including mediation and arbitration. In short, we are retained to resolve international disputes worldwide.
What types of clients do you represent?
Our clients come from all industries, including telecommunications, pharmaceutical, financial services, insurance and reinsurance, construction and energy sectors, among many others. We also are called upon to resolve disputes with sovereign states through investment treaty arbitration.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
Because of the nature of our practice, many of the disputes we handle are confidential and are often resolved on a confidential basis. However, we recently advised clients in a few public disputes, such as Devas Multimedia Private Limited in an ICC arbitration against Antrix Corporation Limited, which resulted in an award of damages in excess of $500 million in favor of our client. The ICC tribunal held that Antrix had unlawfully repudiated a contract with Devas regarding a hybrid satellite and telecommunications network planned for India. We also have been representing Starr International in connection with a $40 billion claim against the United States arising out of the nationalization of AIG in 2008.
How did you decide to practice in your area?
In the mid-1990s, the firm decided to expand its international arbitration practice. At the time, I had recently become partner in the general Litigation Group, but having qualified to practice law in Ireland, England, and Wales, I began to redirect my practice towards international arbitration. Since then, the practice has grown enormously.
What is a typical day or week like in your practice area?
We work across many different time zones and are frequently dealing with counsel and arbitral institutions at all hours of the day and night. We make filings and report to clients around the clock. International travel is a routine (but great) part of the job. Most of our matters involve multiple jurisdictions and filings are often made simultaneously in those jurisdictions.
What is the best thing about your practice area?
The broad scope of the practice brings us into contact with different cultures every day. And the people in our practice group, who are from diverse backgrounds (e.g., Ireland, Australia, France, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Pakistan, India, Hong Kong, Ukraine, and Russia) bring their own unique perspectives to our decision-making process on every case. For example, common law trained lawyers learn the perspective of civil law lawyers and vice versa.
What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?
As I mentioned earlier, the constant interactions with clients that are often on the other side of the world can pose challenges, particularly when filings have to be made in multiple jurisdictions simultaneously. International travel can also be demanding at the best of times.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
Persons interested in this area of practice would benefit from being business fluent in English (requisite) and at least one other language that is used in every day international commerce (e.g., Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, and Cantonese). Taking a number of international law and international arbitration courses are also a plus. Clerkships at any of the leading arbitral institutions such as the ICC or LCIA can also be useful.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area? What do you wish you had known before joining your practice area?
In this day and age there is so much information about practice areas readily available that it is hard to say that misconceptions exist about what our group does. But certainly anyone interested in this type of career should be knowledgeable about, and interested in, international business affairs and international institutions that resolve disputes between parties from different backgrounds and cultures.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm?
This practice group has grown from two partners and three associates in 1996 to 11 partners, four counsel, and more than 40 associates today, primarily located in New York and London, with additional partners and counsel in other foreign offices on multiple continents. We typically advise on every aspect of multibillion dollar cross-border disputes and handle the advocacy in those matters ourselves.
What activities do you enjoy when you are not in the office, and how do you make time for them?
Hanging out with my family and car racing, horse racing, and other sports. In our business, it’s important to find time for outside activities.