Michael Polkinghorne | White & Case LLP International Law Firm, Global Law Practice
Michael Polkinghorne
Michael Polkinghorne

Michael Polkinghorne

Partner, Paris

T +33 1 55 04 58 00

T +33 1 55 04 15 15

E [email protected]

in LinkedIn profile

“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 2018


Michael Polkinghorne focuses on advising clients on arbitration and litigation matters, notably in the areas of energy, telecommunications, project finance and infrastructure.

He has served as counsel and arbitrator in numerous arbitrations conducted under most major institutional rules, helping to resolve disputes for a range of significant commercial and sovereign clients. He is the former Australian member of the International Court of Arbitration of the ICC, and was formerly a member of the ICC Task Force on arbitrations involving state entities.

Michael has handled disputes arising in many different countries, and has significant experience in the area of foreign direct investment and acting for and against states. He is able to apply his considerable knowledge and insight, gained through years of experience, to guide his clients through sometimes prolonged and highly complex proceedings.

Michael is consistently ranked in the top tier of arbitration practitioners in Paris, and was named "Energy Lawyer of the Year" at Euromoney's 2014 Global Commercial Arbitration Awards, and was the winner of the French Arbitration and ADR Client Choice Award in 2017.

In recent years Michael has been involved in a number of mediations, particularly in the industrial gas sector. He has served in over two dozen cases as arbitrator (sole, party-appointed or chair), predominantly in the energy sector, under the ICC, LCIA, Bahrain, Thai MoJ and UNCITRAL rules.

Michael is also a member of the panel of arbitrators of the BVI International Arbitration Centre, the Asian International Arbitration Centre, OHADA, and the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board.

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

He is presently a member of the Legal Advisory Taskforce of the European Energy Charter Secretariat, and lectures regularly on oil and gas issues throughout the world. He has written extensively on energy dispute resolution and foreign investment, and provides courses on long-term energy contracts and dispute resolution.

Michael is a dual-qualified lawyer, resident in Paris where he heads the office's arbitration group. He is joint-head of the firm's oil and gas practice, as well as pro bono leader of the firm's Paris office.


Bars and Courts

  • Paris Bar
  • Solicitor of England and Wales
  • Solicitor and Barrister of the Supreme Court of South Australia


  • LLM, Queens' College, Cambridge University
  • LLB, University of Adelaide, South Australia


  • English
  • French


European industrial gas suppliers, 2015 – ongoing

Michael has advised in regards to numerous disputes ongoing under long-term industrial gas agreements.

European gas buyers and sellers, 2010 – ongoing

Michael has spent a number of years representing different European buyers and sellers of gas in multiple price reopener disputes, with the amounts in dispute running to over a billion dollars. The most recent instructions date from 2017 to 2018.

Joint Venture disputes, 2012 – ongoing

Michael is advising a number of European and Asian clients in the context of JV disputes in areas ranging from energy storage to commercial distribution.

African, Middle-Eastern-owned company, 2009 – ongoing

Michael has represented an African, Middle-Eastern-owned company, in a successful ICC arbitration, conducted in French, with an African State, in connection with public works contracts, as well as enforcement proceedings and annulment actions in numerous jurisdictions worldwide.

Ukrainian state, 2006 – ongoing

Michael has represented the Ukrainian state in several unrelated disputes brought under both contract and bilateral investment treaties.

Scandinavian hydroelectric producer, 2012 – ongoing

Michael advises a Scandinavian hydroelectric producer on issues arising under long-term power purchase agreements over several years.

State agency, 2010

Michael represented a state agency in a PCA dispute brought in relation to the Kyoto Protocol.

Arbitrator appointments (various)

Michael has served as Chairman, sole, co- and party-appointed arbitrator in cases involving, inter alia, (a) refinery projects in North Africa and the Middle East, (b) drilling projects in the CIS, (c) PSA disputes in East and West Africa, (d) mining disputes in South East Asia, and (e) various other matters, predominantly in the energy field.

Speaking Engagements

"Investor-State Disputes under the Energy Charter Treaty", May 2018: 2018 Roschier Arbitration Forum, Stockholm

"Oil & Gas Financing", April 2018: AIPN and EVOLEN Paris Arbitration Week Event,

"Rethinking Co-Leadership in a Disrupted World", December 2017: CIArb and ArbitralWomen Breakfast Event,

"Open Forum: Civil-Common Law Divergence and Convergence: the Telecommunications and New Technologies Case Study – Security, Privacy and evidence", December 2017: CIArb International Arbitration Conference - The Synergy and Divergence between Civil Law and Common Law in International Arbitration,

"Confidentiality and privilege - Is there an argument for reversing any presumption of confidentiality so that parties must act to ensure it, rather than rely on any implied rule? What are the pros and cons?", November 2017: GAR Live Paris,

"LNG Disputes: Beyond Hub Indexation", November 2017: Cornerstone Research Event,


  • 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)
  • Member - Legal Advisory Task Force, "Handbook on General Clauses Applicable to Investment Agreements in the Energy Sector", Energy Charter Secretariat, 2017
  • Due Process Paranoia: Need We Be Cruel to Be Kind, Journal of International Arbitration 34, no.6, 2017, (co-author with Benjamin Ainsley Gill)
  • "The Legality Requirement in Investment Arbitration" Journal of International Arbitration 34, no. 2, 2017, (co-author with Sven-Michael Volkmer)
  • The Adverse Inference in ICSID Practice, ICSID Review, pp. 1-11, 2015, (co-author with Charles Rosenberg)
  • Price Re-Openers In Long-Term Gas Supply Agreements, (Chapter 12 of The Leading Practitioner’s Guide to International Oil & Gas Arbitration), Juris, August 2015, (co-author with Sven-Michael Volkmer)
  • Key Stakeholders, (Chapter in The Encyclopaedia of Oil and Gas Law, Volume 2: Midstream and Downstream), Globe Law and Business, 2015, (co-author with Tuuli Timonen)
  • Expecting the Unexpected: The Force Majeure Clause, Business Law International, vol.6, n°1, January 2015, (co-author with Charles Rosenberg)
  • Different Strokes for Different Folks? The Role of the Tribunal Secretary, Kluwer Arbitration blog, May 2014, (co-author with Charles Rosenberg)
  • Changes of circumstances as a price modifier, Gas Price Arbitrations: A Practical Handbook (Globe Business Publishing Ltd), February 2014, (author)
  • Chapter 11 – Provisional Application of the Energy Charter Treaty: the conundrum, Energy Dispute Resolution: Investment Protection, Transit and the Energy Charter Treaty, February 2012, (co-author)
  • Barristers from the Same Chambers Appearing as Counsel and Arbitrator: Independence Revisited?, Dispute Resolution International, Vol. 5, No. 2, November 2011, (co-author)

Awards & Recognition

Consistently ranked in the top tier of arbitration practitioners in Europe (Band 1 for France; Chambers Global 2018 and Chambers Europe 2018)

Chambers Europe-wide 2018

"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 France 2018

"A superb lawyer"; "Outstanding knowledge of certain aspects of energy law."

Chambers Global-wide 2018

"He is running a spectacular practice and is one of the leading oil and gas arbitration experts. He really is excellent."

Chambers Africa-wide 2018

"Liked and respected"; "doing some very good work."

Who's Who Legal 2018

"Doing great work" and "an extremely able counsel and arbitrator"

Chambers Africa-wide 2017

"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 Europe-wide 2017

"Exceptional" and "Superb"

Chambers France 2017

"An 'exceptional' lawyer and 'certainly one of the leaders of the field.'"

Chambers Global-wide 2017

"Enjoys an excellent reputation in Europe for his wide-ranging international arbitration practice"

Client Choice Awards 2017

Winner of the Arbitration & ADR category for France

Who's Who Legal 2016

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

Chambers Africa-wide 2016

"An excellent arbitration practitioner"

Chambers France 2016

"very impressive individual", "convincing, structured and very focused."

Chambers Global-wide 2016

"an excellent lawyer without a huge ego" who has "a great practice and is well respected."