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Boston in Practice: An Interview with Conna Weiner

Conna A. Weiner, Esq. brings to her U.S. and international arbitration and mediation practice a unique combination of litigation, transactional and in-house experience after roles with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and multinational life sciences (pharmaceuticals, medical device, diagnostics, vaccines) and health care companies. She has lived and worked abroad in a number of her inside counsel roles and has extensive experience mediating and arbitrating complex general commercial cases in the U.S. and internationally. She has served as a sole arbitrator, neutral party-appointed arbitrator on three member panels and as the chair of arbitration tribunals.

Although Ms. Weiner hears a broad range of commercial and other matters, she has global expertise in the full range of unique, complex legal issues and contractual arrangements prevalent in life sciences (such as intellectual property, licensing and acquisitions, supply agreements and the research, development and commercialization of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and diagnostics), health care (both payors and providers) and other technology arenas.  She is a Fellow in the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a Tech List Appointee with the Silicon Valley Arbitration and Mediation Center, a Vice Chair of the USCIB/ICC Northeast Arbitration Committee, an appointed member of the Boston Bar Association International Law Steering Committee and holds a number of other leadership positions in legal and dispute resolution organizations. She is on the JAMS panel, including their international panel, a CPR Distinguished Neutral (including their life sciences and healthcare and technology panels), an AHLA arbitrator and hears AAA and ICDR matters when appointed by the parties. She has also heard matters pursuant to the UNCITRAL rules.

BIAC's own Lisa Thompson recently sat down to interview Ms. Weiner:


What is your role with BIAC -- the Boston International Arbitration Council?

I am the Vice Chair of BIAC’s Board of Directors.

How did you get started as an arbitrator?

My very first case as a young litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison was a huge international arbitration involving the transshipment of oil. We wrapped up the case end to end in under three years (despite the fact that the parties had adopted the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.) A litigation likely would have taken twice as long given the complexity of the case and the availability of appeals. I was impressed by the ability to select our decision-maker and customize the process and this sparked a career long interest in alternative dispute resolution.  After a long career as a civil litigator in New York with Paul, Weiss and then inside counsel in the U.S. and overseas for multinational corporations in the life sciences companies (pharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostics) like Novartis, including as a General Counsel, I decided to make a mid-career shift to serving as a neutral mediator and arbitrator. My time as inside counsel definitely helped me with the transition from advocacy -- particularly since I had to become a transactional lawyer as well as a litigator -- and my special life sciences/healthcare/IP niche was appealing to users.  I was fortunate to get a terrific start with a Higginbotham Fellowship from the American Arbitration Association (their program to promote diversity in the neutral profession), and they fast-tracked me onto their panel and eventually the ICDR panel. I am now at JAMS; they asked me to join them in 2018.

What types of arbitrations have you handled?

I have handled a broad range of domestic and international cases, focusing mainly on complex business disputes, with a particular emphasis on life sciences, IP and health care disputes, but also general commercial cases, including international franchise disputes. I also have a steady flow of employment cases. I have served as a sole arbitrator, neutral party-appointed arbitrator and a chair of a tribunal.

How do you like to manage your arbitrations – are there any special tactics that you find useful?

I am a very service-oriented, prepared, proactive arbitrator. When I was an inside counsel, I chose arbitration to get more customized attention and a faster process from an experienced, possibly specialized adjudicator, and I strive to provide that level of service to my arbitration clients. I have had many cases and years of experience at this point and have seen what works and what doesn't as an advocate, a sole arbitrator and a member of a tripartite tribunal. Two things that I do that help move things along are to conduct very detailed preliminary conferences that set out the road map for the case and make an attempt to identify the issues we will need to address, having given the parties a chance to meet and confer and make suggested submissions well in advance of that conference about either a draft procedural order that I circulate in advance or a detailed agenda. I also hold  regular, usually monthly, status conferences with the parties. I encourage giving thought to different ways of structuring the case given the size and issues involved, drawing on different practices and traditions around the world and the idea that arbitration is supposed to be efficient and fair -- always, of course, respecting party autonomy. I also try to flag issues that are of concern to me so that both sides can address them and put their best foot forward, and I am willing to consider appropriate dispositive motion practice to help narrow the issues in a case. 

Why did you get involved with BIAC?

I have a national and international practice, but I am delighted to be involved with the wonderful group of arbitrators (and mediators) here in Boston and to highlight Boston as an alternative for arbitrations.

What advantages do you see for Boston as a seat for international and domestic arbitration?

For parties located in Boston, or disputes involving witnesses in Boston, the convenience of a Boston location is obvious. Boston is also quite a viable alternative to some of the other big name Northeast locations such as New York and D.C. and should be on the table as parties seek to agree on the various aspects of their dispute resolution clauses.

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