Meet Melida Hodgson, ICC Institute Vice-Chair

  • 19 August 2021
Mélida Hodgson

Melida Hodgson, Vice-Chair of the ICC Institute of World Business Law and a partner at Jenner & Block in New York, shares her journey to and within the global think tank and how she aims to support the new Chairmanship in ensuring the Institute remains a driver of world business law excellence.

Melida Hodgson
Melida Hodgson, Vice-Chair of the ICC Institute of World Business Law, shares her reasons for joining the global think tank.

How did you come to join the ICC Institute of World Business Law, Ms Hodgson?

Ms Hodgson: I was in Paris for a hearing about 10 years ago and my hearing ended a day early. I had the opportunity to attend the ICC Institute’s Annual Conference and was really impressed. The programme was very substantive, and the speakers were knowledgeable and really dove into each of the topics, which were very much of the moment.

We had the opportunity at lunch to meet colleagues from all over the world who were there specifically to attend the conference. It was a unique experience where you really got to know the people who were attending and to learn about their practice.

So, I decided to join the ICC Institute and a few years later was encouraged to join the Council. I liked the idea of being more involved in the type of discussions the Institute was facilitating. I also enjoyed my time as a member of the Council and the opportunity to work closely with colleagues who were not necessarily always part of my orbit.

Ms Hodgson, why did you want to run for Vice-Chair?

Ms Hodgson: After having been part of the Council for several years, there was suddenly this big change happening within the Institute. Yves Derains, the then Chair of the Institute, and his Vice-Chairs, Eric Schwartz and Antonias Dimolitsa, were retiring. So, there was really an opportunity for the Council to be reshaped in a different way. I had come to appreciate the contributions that the members of the Council made in terms of developing important, innovative programmes and trainings for our broader community. I then spoke with a couple of colleagues who encouraged me to run for office. When Eduardo Silva Romero asked me to join him and Alan Thambiayah as part of his team that would present itself for Chair and Vice-Chairs, I was thrilled. So that’s really how it came about. I thought that I could contribute to really moving the Institute into the next phase of its life.

In an earlier ICC Institute interview, Mr Silva Romero shared his ambitious plans to prioritise diversity and expand the focus of the think-tank. How will you support him as a Vice-Chair?

Ms Hodgson: Eduardo, Alan — our other Vice-Chair — and I really appreciate the great work that has been done by Yves, Eric and Antonias. I think first and foremost, we see ourselves as keepers of the flame. It is hard to follow in their footsteps. But we do appreciate that this is a real opportunity.

Individually, and together, we have a goal of seeing the Institute become more diverse to reflect the true diversity of ICC and its global business community. That is why we aim to increase the number of lawyers and practitioners who focus on corporate and/or transactional issues, including in-house counsel, so that we can truly appreciate the needs of the global business community are and work to best serve those needs through our trainings, programmes and other educational activities. We also want to examine how we can better serve other kinds of users – government-related entities and smaller enterprises. But our diversity goals do not stop there. We are also looking to bolster gender diversity, racial diversity, ethnic diversity, geographic diversity, etc. We started an Australasian chapter of the Institute under Alan’s leadership in 2021, which followed the Latin American and Iberian chapters that Eduardo started in 2018. By employing a multifaceted approach to addressing the regional needs of our members, we can identify particular areas of study for each and coordinate the associated trainings and activities to boost capacity and best practices around the world.

We will also continue to focus on high-quality training and education to foster wider knowledge of the law and international business practices. This means we will carry on our work with the ICC International Court of Arbitration in developing exceptional dispute resolution-based programmes, but we will also create new ones as well.

One of the programmes that we are working on now aims to better educate lawyers and non-lawyers at public, semi-public entities and state-owned entities about the basics of arbitration. I think Eduardo, Alan and I all see in our practice where that is missing. To do that, we will need to look first at the nature of the transactions in which these users engage. We want to also develop training that will look at the key aspects of the nature of that type of contracting (so any kind of partnering by public entities), not only from a simplistic view of an arbitral clause in those types of contracts but also the sometimes-problematic nature of operating under contracts and how that leads to disputes. We are excited to look at all these different areas that we can assist in expanding practitioners’ knowledge and expertise, as well as to bring in more new members that can be experts in those areas so that we remain at the forefront of international business law.

How will the Institute’s new leadership represent ICC’s values through its work?

Ms Hodgson: We see ourselves as working together and really dividing the work between us to fulfil our mission to the Institute, as well as the greater ICC. First, and foremost, we seek to promote the value of diversity as I have discussed previously, in its multiple aspects. Together, we want to develop the right trainings and the right programmes that will better serve the legal needs of our international business community — a diverse array of that community.

Another important element for us is fostering connections — which is what brought me to the Institute in the first place. We really want to connect and actively engage our members so that they feel that they are a part of our mission, which aims to not only strengthen links between international business practitioners, scholars and researchers but also encourage the study of legal matters concerning international business and offer lawyers, businesses and students the means to deepen their knowledge of legal techniques concerning global trade. To do that, we have developed a range of new activities like our ICC Institute Meetups, which have been very successful thanks to our Council members Jacob Grierson and Carmen Núñez-Lagos. We take a perspective that a particular practitioner has and really go in-depth by looking at all the angles, possibilities, issues, etc. We also now host Jurisprudential Debates, a brainchild of Eduardo, which are like Meetups, but are more combative — a person saying, “this is my position on a key issue, tell me why I am not right.” These two programmes are only open to Institute members; however, members can invite a colleague if they wish. We intend to have more of these types of programmes and not only in the arbitration arena but in the broader range of international commercial business topics.

These activities give us an opportunity to meet in person (subject to the pandemic), of which there is no substitute. The virtual world created by the pandemic has saved us in many ways, but it has also made us more appreciative of the value of actually being in a room with someone for developing commercial relationships. Most of the world prefers person-to-person commercial business relationships that depend on this real connection. We want to encourage the fostering of these types of relationships. We feel this will help to develop trainings that address issues that our community feels are particularly important within a commercial relationship.

Learn more about the ICC Institute of World Business Law and how to become a member.