Hans Smit - Un Grand Homme - ARIA - Vol. 23, No. 3-4, 2012
Anne Marie Whitesell, Of Counsel, Dechert LLP, Washington, D.C.
Originally from American Review of International Arbitration - ARIA
As has often been stated, Hans Smit was a great man – physically,
intellectually and personally. I was highly privileged to know Hans for many
years. Indeed, I had the chance to be accompanied by Hans from the beginning of
my work as a lawyer and throughout the various phases of my career.
I met Hans when I started working as a young lawyer for a firm in New York.
My first case was an arbitration in which Hans was the sole arbitrator. I still
remember being impressed by his keen intellectual abilities. Extremely
perceptive, Hans cut through the multiple layers of facts and legal arguments and
grasped the true issues. His in-depth comprehension of the essential elements of
the case showed in the insightful questions that he raised to somewhat intimidated
counsel. Hans truly seemed to enjoy himself. It was a wonderful experience for a
lawyer who was just starting out, and reinforced my desire to work in international
This first case with Hans presented fascinating questions concerning the
exchange rate to be used to calculate damages. Hans rendered an award in which
he proposed to modify the New York practice at the time. He was proud of his
decision, actually publishing a case note in which he wrote: “The author of this
note . . . finds himself in the curious position of appreciating that his decision was
attacked in court because it opened the possibility of exposing it to public
scrutiny.”2 Subsequently, Hans often complained that the parties settled the
matter before his award could be upheld by the New York federal court.
Shortly thereafter, when Hans learned that I would be moving to France, he
encouraged me to think about teaching. He introduced me to several professors at
the Université de Paris I – Panthéon – Sorbonne. I soon found myself teaching
part-time while working for a firm. To my great pleasure, the following year,
Hans was a visiting professor at Paris I. What a chance to spend a year teaching
with Hans at the same university!
Hans’ arrival at the university drew great attention. When he realized that
there was no ice water available in his office, he rapidly purchased a small
refrigerator, which he carried like a baby in his long arms up the wobbly
centuries-old stairs of the Sorbonne. This greatly amused several members of the
French administrative staff. Their amusement later turned to delight when they
realized that such refrigerator served not only to make ice, but also to chill