Cedric C. Chao of DLA Piper was named 2018 "Lawyer of the Year" for Arbitration.

How did you get into your practice area?

I began my career as a U.S. trial lawyer, as an assistant U.S. attorney, and then as a business litigator and white-collar defense lawyer. As a mid-level partner, my former firm, Morrison & Foerster, asked me to start its international litigation practice, which segued into international arbitration. To this day, I have a mixed practice of both U.S. courtroom disputes and international litigation and arbitration.

Who are your typical clients?

I have a range of U.S. and foreign clients spanning many industries spread over Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

What is your ultimate goal in your practice?

To contribute to the development of global dispute resolution and to enjoy the challenge of assisting clients in cutting-edge and high-stakes litigation.

Describe one of your most interesting or memorable cases.

I led a team defending a large U.S. power developer that withdrew from the development of a major power project in India. Our client’s local partner responded by filing a $1.2 billion claim in an ad hoc arbitration seated in New Delhi, governed by Indian law and pursuant to UNCITRAL rules. There were many surprises and challenges, including the claimant’s action in the Indian Supreme Court seeking to replace the presiding English arbitrator with a local arbitrator who would agree to cap daily fees at a very low rate. This led to four hearings before the Indian Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in our favor. The claimant then filed a lawsuit, also seeking replacement of the presiding arbitrator, in a faraway state court. When we effectively blocked this suit, the dispute settled for a small sum.

What qualities do you possess that you find particularly relevant/necessary for practicing your area of law?

I have “seen it all” in the world of litigation—the good and the bad—and am very comfortable with complex commercial transactions and technology. 

What lessons have you learned along the way?

Keep your eye on the big picture, because one can lose a battle yet win the war. Also, maintain a sense of humor because “stuff happens.”