Michael Polkinghorne

Partner, Paris


“No matter what issues come up, he knows about them immediately, even if they have to do with the industry rather than just the law … He is to the point, focused and knows what he’s after … He’s a larger-than-life character and has an incredibly good sense of humor.”
Chambers Europe-wide


Michael Polkinghorne is a Franco-Australian dual-qualified lawyer, resident in Paris where he heads White & Case's Paris arbitration group and is co-leader of the Firm's pro bono practice. He has a widely acknowledged range of experience in arbitration and litigation in the areas of energy, telecommunications, project finance and infrastructure. He has served as counsel and arbitrator in arbitrations conducted under most major institutional rules and is the former Australian member of the International Court of Arbitration of the ICC. He is a council member of the ICC Institute and was a member of the ICC Task Force on arbitrations involving state entities. He has covered disputes involving over thirty countries. He has in recent years been involved in a number of mediations, notably in the industrial gas sector, and has served in over two dozen cases as arbitrator (sole, party-appointed or chair), predominantly in the energy sector, under the ICC, LCIA, SCC, Bahrain CDR, FAI, Thai MoJ and UNCITRAL rules. He has also testified as expert witness on international best energy practices.

Michael is also a member of the panel of arbitrators of the BVI International Arbitration Centre, eBRAM (Panel of Arbitrators, Mediators and APEC Neutrals), the Asian International Arbitration Centre, the Asian International Arbitration Centre, OHADA, and the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board. He has recently been included on the Global Arbitrators and Counsel Lists of the Office of the Ombudsman for United Nations Funds and Programmes. 

Michael has a significant transactional practice, advising clients in the energy and infrastructure development fields. He has advised a number of petroleum clients on projects in South East Asia, the Russian Federation, India, China and West and North Africa.

Admitted to practice in both common and civil law jurisdictions, Michael is a member of the Legal Advisory Taskforce of the European Energy Charter Secretariat. He has written extensively on energy dispute resolution and foreign investment, and provides courses on long-term energy contracts and dispute resolution. He has taught at the Paris Bar School and several business schools.

Bars and Courts
Solicitor of England and Wales
LLM (Hons)
Queens' College
Cambridge University
LLB (Hons)
University of Adelaide

South Australia (Stow Medalist)



Michael's recent work includes:

Representing different European buyers and sellers of gas in multiple price reopener disputes;

Advising a number of European and Asian clients in the context of Joint Venture disputes in areas ranging from energy storage to commercial distribution;

Counsel in several energy related disputes in and/or involving Mainland China;

Representing an African, Middle-Eastern-owned company, in a successful ICC arbitration, conducted in French, with an African State, in connection with public works contracts;

Representing the Ukrainian state in several unrelated disputes brought under both contract and bilateral investment treaties;

Advising a Scandinavian hydroelectric producer on issues arising under several long-term power purchase agreements over several years;

Representing a state agency in a PCA dispute brought in relation to the Kyoto Protocol;

Representing a state-owned gas company in an east-west gas supply, storage and transit dispute with claims in excess of USD 6 billion;

Representing a majority owner in a joint venture mobile telecommunications company in a dispute arising out of the threatened divestment of its majority interest by its joint venture partner, the telecommunications arm of a Central European government;

Representing a vendor of a majority interest in a Central European mobile telecommunications company in a dispute with the purchaser;

Representing the owner of a pharmaceutical company in two disputes against a Central European state accused of expropriating such interest;

Representing an Asian state in a US$180 million UNCITRAL (bilateral investment treaty) arbitration against a European construction company;

Representing a major petroleum company in an acquisition dispute over a Russian oilfield against a subsidiary of a state-owned oil company; and

Representing a major petroleum company in a PSA dispute involving the Russian Federation.



Contributing co-editor, "International Arbitration | Chapters", November 2021, The Legal500, 6th Edition (with Kirsten Odynski)

Co-author, "UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration", February 2020, Cambridge University Press

Co-author, Chapter "Applicability of the UNIDROIT Principles under French law", December 2019, Perspectives in Practice of the UNIDROIT Principles 2016

Co-edited, "Expedited Procedures in International Arbitration", December 2018, Kluwer Law International, (with Laurent Levy)

Member - Legal Advisory Task Force, 2017, Handbook on General Clauses Applicable to Investment Agreements in the Energy Sector

Co-author, Chapter "Structural support, not a bridge: The role of amicus curiae opinions in investment arbitration", 2016, Liber Amicorum en l'Honneur (with Elizabeth Oger-Gross)

Co-author, Chapter "Key Stakeholders", The Encyclopedia of Oil and Gas Law", Volume 2: Midstream and Downstream, 2015, Globe Law and Business (with Tuuli Timonen)

Co-author, Chapter 12 "Price Re-Openers In Long-Term Gas Supply Agreements", August 2015, The Leading Practitioner's Guide to International Oil & Gas Arbitration (with Sven-Michael Volkmer)

Author, Chapter "Changes of circumstances as a price modifier," February 2014, Gas Price Arbitrations: A Practical Handbook

Co-author, Chapter 11 "Provisional Application of the Energy Charter Treaty: the conundrum," February 2012, Energy Dispute Resolution: Investment Protection, Transit and the Energy Charter Treaty

Recent Articles

Co-author, "COVID-19 and the Exceptions to Contractual Liability in Arab Contract Law", 2021, Bahrain Chamber for Dispute Resolution - International Arbitration Review (with Yasmine El Achkar)

Co-author, "Due Process Paranoia: Need We Be Cruel to Be Kind", 2017, Journal of International Arbitration 34, no.6, (with Benjamin Ainsley Gill) 

Co-author, "The Legality Requirement in Investment Arbitration", 2017, Journal of International Arbitration 34, no. 2, (with Sven-Michael Volkmer)

Author of the Paris Energy Series, a legal periodical which has to date covered (a) unitization of oil and gas fields, (b) gas price redetermination, (c) "pre-contract" agreements, (d) choice of law in international energy contracts, and (e) drafting oil and gas dispute resolution clauses (f) exclusion of liability clauses, (g) take-or-pay conditions in gas supply agreements, (h) standard-form clauses in common and civil law jurisdictions, (i) the force majeure clause, (j) arbitral implications for the oil and gas sector of the Paris agreement on climate change (2009-2016)

Co-author, "Expecting the Unexpected: The Force Majeure Clause", January 2015, Business Law International, vol.6, n°1, (with Charles Rosenberg)

Co-author, "The Adverse Inference in ICSID Practice", 2015, ICSID Review (with Charles Rosenberg)

Co-author, "Different Strokes for Different Folks? The Role of the Tribunal Secretary", May 2014, Kluwer Arbitration blog, (with Charles Rosenberg)

Co-author, "Two steps forward, one step...sideways - recent developments in arbitration in China", 2008, Kluwer Law International's Journal of International Arbitration, (with Robert Pé)

Co-author, "Revision of the UNCITRAL Rules: The Current State of Play", May 2008, Contemporary Asia Arbitration Journal, (with Marily Paralika)

Author of "Enforcement of annulled awards in France: the sting in the tail", January 2008, International Construction Law Review, Vol. 25 Pt 1, 48

Author of "Unitisation or redetermination: right or obligation?", summer 2007, Journal of Energy and Natural Resources Law, Vol. 5, No 3

Awards and Recognition

Ranked Band 1 for International Arbitration, Chambers Global, 2023

Ranked Band 1 for International Arbitration, Chambers Europe, 2023

'Top 10 Most Influential Lawyers in Europe's International Arbitration Landscape', Business Today Lawyer Awards, 2023

Hall of Fame for Dispute Resolution: International Arbitration, France, The Legal 500 2023

Private Practice Powerlist – Arbitration France, The Legal 500 2023

Listed in the 2021 and 2023 Lawdragon 500 Global Litigation Lawyers Guide

"Thought Leader: Arbitration" Who's Who Legal, 2021

"He is very impressive in gas contracts." Chambers EU, Arbitration, 2023

He is "one of the most respected practitioners in the field." Chambers France, International Arbitration, 2023

Clients praise his commitment and leadership skills, saying: "He creates a good working atmosphere, he truly works on the case, he creates good continuity for the client and he is able to bring other people in when needed" and another source enthuses: "He's brilliant, he's just a super brain." Chambers, 2020

Consistently ranked in the top tier of arbitration practitioners in Europe (Band 1 for France & Europe). Chambers Global & Chambers Europe, 2019

"Paris-based Michael Polkinghorne is a seasoned figure in the international arbitration sphere, with a practice predominantly focused on high-value oil and gas and energy-related disputes. He has substantial experience handling ICC proceedings and is particularly active in disputes involving African jurisdictions." Chambers, 2019

"Michael Polkinghorne is highly regarded for his "diverse practice" across Africa and as a "very good international practitioner." Sources are impressed, saying that he "does some fantastic work, especially in the Nigerian context." Band 2 Chambers Africa, 2019

"Michael Polkinghorne is recognised as one of the most prominent energy and arbitration lawyers in the country." Who's Who Legal, France, 2019

"No matter what issues come up, he knows about them immediately, even if they have to do with the industry rather than just the law"..."He is to the point, focused and knows what he's after...He's a larger-than-life character and has an incredibly good sense of humour." Chambers Europe-wide, 2018

"A superb lawyer", "Outstanding knowledge of certain aspects of energy law." Chambers France, 2018

"He is running a spectacular practice and is one of the leading oil and gas arbitration experts. He really is excellent." Chambers Global-wide, 2018

"Doing great work" and "an extremely able counsel and arbitrator." Who's Who Legal, 2018

"Well-respected, Paris-based practitioner in this market and maintains an excellent reputation among his peers. He is highly regarded for his work in arbitrations throughout Africa, with notable expertise in the oil and gas sector." Chambers Africa-wide, 2017

"Exceptional" and "Superb." Chambers Europe-wide, 2017

"An 'exceptional' lawyer and 'certainly one of the leaders of the field.'" Chambers France, 2017

Winner of the Arbitration & ADR category for France. Client Choice Awards, 2017 & 2019

"Fantastic for energy disputes", "a joy to work with", "diligent manner" and ability to "grasp and organise complex issues with ease." Who's Who Legal, 2016

"Very impressive individual", "convincing, structured and very focused." Chambers France, 2016

"An excellent lawyer without a huge ego" who has "a great practice and is well respected." Chambers Global-wide, 2016

"Energy Lawyer of the Year." Euromoney's Global Commercial Arbitration Awards, 2014

"A ‘top choice’ for energy disputes." Who's Who Legal, 2014