Professor J Martin Hunter

18 October, 2021

It was with great sadness that the members of Essex Court Chambers learnt of the death of Professor J Martin Hunter on Saturday 9 October 2021.

Martin joined Essex Court Chambers from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in 1994 where he practiced as an arbitrator and advocate for many years. Martin had joined Freshfields as an articled clerk in 1961, after graduating from Pembroke College, Cambridge, and the College of Law in London. He qualified 2 years later, becoming one of the then legally limited number (20) of partners in a solicitors firm in 1967. He handled litigation as well as arbitration in the early days, and was fond of recalling that he used to instruct Tom Bingham at the Bar. As his practice developed, Martin focussed increasingly on international arbitration, and he became an early specialist in what was taking off as a discrete area of practice. He advised and acted in countless arbitration cases from the mid-1970s onwards, helped set up a separate department at the firm and encouraged many promising young lawyers to join it.

In 1986, Martin together with his partner at Freshfields, Alan Redfern, published the first edition of what soon became a leading work, The Law and Practice of International Arbitration. Unlike other English textbooks it aimed to take an international perspective and to explain the practice of international arbitration, as much as (if not more than) the legal rules of particular domestic courts. The foreword by Professor Sir Robert Jennings, who emphasized the importance of this developing area where disputes often “lie astraddle the frontiers of international law and domestic law and raise questions that do not fit into the categories of private international law either”, welcomed the book as a valuable study by two authors “who not only know how to tackle the essentially academic problems of systematising a body of law by reasoned exposition, but have the great asset of very considerable hard practical experience.”

In 1994, with Freshfields’ then mandatory age-related retirement still a few years off, Martin decided to look for a new challenge. By that time, he was pre-eminent in all aspects of international arbitration and was frequently appointed as arbitrator in international arbitrations, especially those with a United States connection (later he was involved NAFTA cases Mexico v USA and SD Myers v Canada, and well as other investment arbitrations and huge numbers of commercial arbitrations). He decided to qualify as a barrister and to join Essex Court Chambers (which had then recently left 4 Essex Court in the Temple, by which address it was formerly known, and moved to Lincoln’s Inn Fields). The authorities at the Bar decided that, despite his vast experience, Martin should undergo a short period of pupillage (he was allocated to Graham Dunning for this purpose) and also some of the usual training courses for pupils. Martin did so enthusiastically, albeit he sought some assistance from his then co-pupil, Paul Stanley, and, unusually for a pupil, he did spend part of the required 3 months, unsupervised, as arbitrator in a major international arbitration in New York. He was duly called to the Bar in Lincoln’s Inn and became a full member of Essex Court Chambers, with a room in the main building.

The addition of Martin (as well as others who joined Essex Court Chambers as door tenants at around this time and in the following decade) helped to raise the profile of the set around the world as containing many leading barristers specialising in all types of international arbitration.

Whilst practising at Essex Court Chambers, Martin served as chairman of the board of trustees of the Dubai International Arbitration Centre and he was deputy chairman of the Departmental Advisory Committee on Arbitration Law, at the time when under the Chairmanship of Lord Justice Saville, the committee was (eventually) able to ensure the enactment on a draft Arbitration Bill updating the English law of arbitration, which became the 1996 English Arbitration Act. Martin was also a member of the Council of ICCA and participated in the work of other organisations active in the field, including the AAA, IBA, ITA, UNCITRAL and the ICC and LCIA courts.

Part of Martin’s thinking on joining Essex Court Chambers was that the independence of the Bar would allow him to get increasingly involved in legal education (perhaps following in the footsteps of his father, who had taught at Winchester College). For many years, Martin taught arbitration courses in Florida (where conveniently he had a house at Boca Raton, at which he kept an identical set of golf clubs to that which he had at Sunningdale in England) and in 1995 he became chair of dispute resolution at Nottingham Trent University, where he was appointed as emeritus professor in 2010. Over the years, he also taught at several other universities in different parts of the globe, including in India, Hungary and Brazil and at King’s College in London.

In addition to his considerable professional skills, Martin was open, charming and loved travelling and engaging with people of all backgrounds. He inspired many young lawyers to pursue careers in international arbitration. As Constantine Partasides QC of Three Crowns is reported to have told GAR: “Martin had the vision to see that international arbitration should be a speciality … But beyond his many professional achievements he was a kind, generous, enthusiastic, optimistic mentor and friend who was always looking to help the new generation of young arbitration lawyers, throughout the world with a particular focus on India”.

The arbitration community has lost one of its greatest practitioners. Our thoughts are with Martin’s wife Linda, family and many friends during this time.