Prof. Dr. Jan Kleinheisterkamp

works as an international arbitrator and mediator, based in Brussels. After 20 years in academia, most of them at the Law School of the London School of Economics, he changed gears when turning 50 in 2021 – focusing on his practice as an arbitrator, which he had started in 2006 alongside his academic work. Since 2019, he has also been developing his skills in international mediation.

Prof. Dr. Kleinheisterkamp only acts as arbitrator and mediator, not as counsel.

He has extensive experience as a sole arbitrator, presiding arbitrator and co-arbitrator in ICC, LCIA and UNCITRAL proceedings, as well as in emergency arbitrator proceedings and expert determination. Since 2006, he has arbitrated a wide array of complex matters, from international finance to construction, pharmaceuticals to agriculture, energy and natural resources to infrastructure, and from international trade to investor-state disputes, with a total value exceeding a billion U.S. dollars. A German–Peruvian double national, he works and conducts arbitrations in English, Spanish, Portuguese, German and French.

During his time as a professor, his teaching and research focused on comparative law and conflict of laws in international transactions and arbitration, as well as on investment treaty law. He is still a visiting professor at the LSE Law School, at the MIDS programme of the Geneva Graduate Institute and at the Católica Global School of Law in Lisbon.

In 2020, he was appointed by the UK Government to the ICSID Panel of Conciliators. From 2014 to 2019, he served at the International Chamber of Commerce as a member of its Governing Body for Dispute Resolution Services and, from 2016 to 2018, as a member of the ICC Task Force on Emergency Arbitrator Proceedings. He was also a member of the UK government’s Advisory Group for International Arbitration from 2012 to 2015, and he advised the European Parliament on investment treaty law on various occasions between 2010 and 2014. Since 2019, he has been listed among the world’s leading practitioners in Who’s Who Legal – Arbitration, as well as in similar listings.

About Jan and Arbitration

Jan was born in Chiclayo / Peru and grew up in South Africa, Colombia, Spain, Germany, Brazil and the U.S.A. Accordingly, he is fluent and confident working in English, Spanish, Portuguese and German – as well as French, which he learned much later. And no, his parents were not diplomats; his father was a specialist in tropical farming.

Having majored in maths and physics and graduated top of his class, he started to study aviation and space technology in Germany, but soon missed the social and human dimension and decided to switch to law. What has remained is a solid understanding of natural science and technology, which has proven valuable in numerous arbitrations.

As a law student, he discovered international arbitration when interning at the General Legal Division of the Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations in New York. Here, he worked on claims against the U.N. for compensation arising from a peace-keeping mission in Somalia, which were to be settled in arbitration.

When returning to the University of Hannover for his final year, he found that all dissertation topics relating to international business transactions had already been taken – except the one on the English Channel Tunnel case, which forced him to study the law of arbitration in more depth.

After graduating in Law in 1998, he originally wanted to do a PhD in international environmental law but could not resist an offer, based on his language skills, to work at the prestigious Max Planck Institute for Private International and Comparative Law in Hamburg. He first worked as an assistant of Dr. Jürgen Samtleben in the Department of Latin America and then later as a research fellow.

During this time, he wrote his comparative doctoral thesis on international commercial arbitration in the Mercosur. This became apparently the first PhD thesis to be written in English at the University of Hamburg’s Faculty of Law. The resulting book, published in 2005 by Oceana Publications (now Oxford University Press), was the first comprehensive comparative study on the laws and practices of arbitration in that region. This was an important steppingstone for building his expertise in Latin American law.

During his judicial training (Referendariat) at the OLG Hamburg, which overlapped with the last two years of his PhD, he reconnected to his earlier passion for public law from his time at law school: he spent much of that time in Brussels working in competition law (DG Comp and a law firm) and chose the option of administrative law for his 2nd Staatsexamen. The private-public divide and the public dimension of private dispute resolution later has become a hallmark of his academic work.

His first professorial appointment brought him to the HEC School of Management in Paris in 2004, where he was recruited to teach international commercial transactions. However, he found himself primarily having to teach European law and Introduction au droit français – without having studied French law before.

Four years later, he followed a call to the Law School of the London School of Economics to take the lead on international arbitration there in 2008. This time, he found himself also teaching the English Law of Obligations, despite having never studied English law. It was a rough and steep road to living comparative law – and another valuable asset for his practice of international arbitration.

His first appointment as an arbitrator came surprisingly in 2006, when the ICC needed someone capable and willing to apply German law in Spanish language to a German-Peruvian dispute in the value of US$ 50,000 with seat in Lima. The parties were not represented by lawyers; Jan asked an older colleague in Lima whether he could borrow his meeting room for the hearing and did the best he could to make the procedure work. The parties seemed happy afterwards – and it was the beginning of a steep learning curve in case management.

These early years were also marked by his work on the Commentary on the UNIDROIT Principles on International Commercial Contracts, the first edition of which he co-edited with Stefan Vogenauer and which was published by OUP in 2009. This voluminous comparative commentary, aimed at both practice and academia, was the first of its kind for the UNIDROIT Principles at the crossroads between the substantive law of international contracts and international arbitration.

Thereafter, Jan stumbled into investment treaty law when his colleague Anthea Roberts left LSE in 2010, leaving him as the only lawyer to contribute to an LSE study for the European Parliament on the intersection between European law and investment treaty law. This topic dominated much of his research and policy work in the following years and led him to take on the teaching of investment treaty law at LSE.

For a German living in Brussels with his family and working in London, the BREXIT vote of 2016 – just before his return from a sabbatical year at Cornell Law School – and its aftermath was a seismic moment. It led to the first serious crack in what had seemed to be an obvious career in London.

COVID then brought 15 years of commuting from Brussels to Paris and London to an end, and – as the number of appointments continued to increase – turning 50 in 2021 brought even greater clarity: leaving university for a full-time practice in international arbitration and mediation in Brussels would be the way forward for the next 50 years. And not a moment of regret since then.