HKIAC Experience: An Intern’s Perspective


From attending emergency arbitrator hearings to assisting on business development projects – law student Riccardo Savona Siemens discusses his internship experience at the world-leading Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre.

In April 2015, I began a three-month internship at the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (“HKIAC” or “Centre”) as a recent law graduate with litigation experiences in three European jurisdictions. My internship at HKIAC represented an exciting opportunity for me, as I was looking for a gateway into Asia and a practical experience in arbitration.

Early on in my discovery of the international arbitration community, I have had the unique opportunity to gain insight into one of the world’s leading arbitral institutions which I believe will prove invaluable as I progress in my career as a lawyer.  With this in mind, this post is intended to share my experiences as an intern at HKIAC and encourage young professionals curious about the world of international arbitration to consider internship experiences at an arbitral institution.

HKIAC’s internship programme is flexible and caters to the needs of interns who may choose their start and finish dates based on their time schedules as well as the varying levels of experience. This flexibility promotes broad diversity of interns from various educational backgrounds. At different times I was working alongside people who were young lawyers or law students from the US, China, Canada, Australia, the Philippines and Peru, each bringing a unique expertise and set of skills.

Newcomers begin their internship with an orientation, where members of HKIAC’s arbitration, mediation and domain name teams give an introduction to HKIAC’s operations and services as well as the dispute resolution landscape in Hong Kong.

The HKIAC Secretariat is a multicultural team comprised of lawyers from various legal backgrounds as well as levels of experience.  These members work as a close team and engage with each other regularly on issues arising from their cases.

The arbitration team is in charge of all of the ad hoc and administered arbitrations that come through the Centre.  From the receipt of the notice of arbitration until the issue of the final award, each case manager (Counsel and Deputy Counsel) is responsible for their cases which are distributed on a rotating basis, unless a specific language is required to handle a particular case.  The case managers handle the daily matters arising from the arbitration and the Secretary General, Managing Counsel and Deputy Managing Counsel provide guidance and input to the case management team when specific issues arise from time to time.

As an intern, I provided support to the Secretariat throughout the case administration process, which included legal research regarding interpretation of pathological clauses, drafting internal memos on challenges to arbitrators, assisting on administrative matters and attending hearings.

In one case, I assisted the arbitration team in a challenge to a party-appointed arbitrator under the HKIAC Rules. The challenging party sought to remove the arbitrator based on the allegations that he lacked necessary language qualifications and had contributed a chapter to an arbitration text book authored by the appointing party’s counsel. I followed the challenge process, conducted legal research on a number of conflict of interest issues and prepared an internal note recommending the appropriate response to the challenge. HKIAC ultimately rejected the challenge.

I also had an opportunity to attend a hearing where an emergency arbitrator was appointed to hear an application for an emergency injunction to restrain a board meeting from happening. The board meeting was scheduled to take place four days after the filing of the application. HKIAC appointed the emergency arbitrator within only 6.5 hours after receipt of the application. After considering the parties’ initial submissions, the emergency arbitrator issued an interim order to stay the meeting until a hearing a week later or further order by the emergency arbitrator.  The hearing was held at HKIAC and took a half day. It was attended by both parties’ counsel. The issues were heard based on the counsel’s oral submissions.  No witnesses were called for cross-examination. The emergency arbitrator issued its decision dismissing the application five days after the hearing. I found this experience to be particularly exciting. I had heard of the emergency arbitrator procedure but the chance to see it in action was beyond my expectations!  I observed the efficiency of the whole process, understanding how the emergency arbitration procedure can offer a unique tool to parties in need of urgent relief.

Another facet of the HKIAC internship experience is to support the business development (“BD”) team.  During my internship period, HKIAC hosted ICCA Governing Board members and planned the HK ICCA Summit.  This event attracted around 300 delegates around the world and featured in-depth discussions on arbitration and related issues on South-South trade, transparency and anti-corruption. HKIAC also hosted a judicial forum alongside the Summit where judges from 12 jurisdictions came to discuss the role of judiciary in international arbitration. During these few days, I had the opportunity to support the BD team both in a behind-the-scenes as well as front-facing capacity, gaining a deep sense of appreciation as to all of the work required to host a conference.  I also had the chance to chat with a Supreme Court judge and other senior figures in the arbitration world.

Another aspect of my BD work was the collection and analysis of HKIAC’s case statistics. I reviewed numerous case files and tracked trends from the cases coming before HKIAC. Such information is used to help the Secretariat better understand its users and find ways to improve its services.  This task was fascinating and highly revealing. It gave me the possibility to investigate all of the various files and learn the kind of cases an institution handles, how they do this and the way through which they can tailor their services to meet the individual needs of users of arbitration.

The energy and entrepreneurial spirit I felt at HKIAC was reflected in all of the Centre’s daily work.  I had the sense that everyone has the opportunity to contribute their ideas on how to make the arbitral process more efficient, how to better cater to users’ needs, and how to promote HKIAC as a leading dispute resolution provider.  The Centre’s office is an ideal forum for discussions of innovative ideas.  These ideas were often bounced around and, whereas only some could be developed, all received appropriate consideration.  Through observing this process, I could appreciate what it takes to be “innovative” in the highly competitive world of arbitration.

In line with the frequent release of new services, during my time at HKIAC, I observed the development and launch of the Arbitration Evaluation System and how HKIAC values feedback and promotes transparency in the arbitral process.

Having completed the internship, I can say that my experience at HKIAC exceeded my expectations. The internship provided me with practical experience and valuable insights on the Centre’s internal process regarding case administration, know-how management and event organisation. I was also very grateful for having the opportunity to attend and help in many HKIAC events, meeting a variety of interesting people with a diverse background and expertise.

I would recommend HKIAC’s internship opportunities as a very useful experience for people who are looking at different paths in dispute resolution and are at an early stage of their career. My advice would be to make the most of such experiences, and in that respect a programme like that on offer at HKIAC is invaluable, as it offers its interns the possibility to get involved in various areas and tasks, enabling for a better understanding of the multifaceted arbitration world. 

Information on HKIAC’s internship programme is available here:

This article may be cited as follows: Riccardo Savona Siemens, “HKIAC Experience: An Intern’s Perspective” International Arbitration Asia (26 November 2015) <>.

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LLM Candidate University College London

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