Constantine Partasides QC

Constantine Partasides QC was one of the youngest solicitor-advocates to be appointed to silk in 2014. (Four other solicitors were also successful.) He came to this country as an infant with his parents when they left Cyprus in 1974. But the ties with the UK predated that time, as his grandfather had fought in the Second World War as part of the British Colonial Armed Forces and had later settled here, becoming a fruit and vegetable trader in Covent Garden (in its original central London location). Constantine secured a fully state-funded assisted place at a top public school in 1979, under a scheme introduced by the then Conservative Government.

In 1994, Constantine joined Freshfields as a trainee solicitor. He rose to become a partner and the head of the firm’s international arbitration practice in London. The principal appeal of the work for Constantine was the “excitement and challenge” of working across different national jurisdictions within a single case, and with colleagues from across the globe. In April 2014, Constantine and five other partners from different international law firms launched Three Crowns LLP, a boutique international arbitration firm specialising in commercial, investment-treaty, and inter-State international arbitration.

Constantine said that, these days, most large international commercial disputes were arbitrated. He praised the way in which the QC Selection Panel took account of that reality – in terms of the sort of evidence of excellence in advocacy that was acceptable to the Selection Panel, regarding assessors, cases and forums. It was helpful too that the Panel took into account the fact that very large complex international arbitrations often lasted several years, and that a top-level practitioner might well not have the 12 eligible cases to offer within the two-year period. More generally, Constantine was pleased that an increasing number of solicitors were putting themselves forward for silk – and being successful. He said that in other countries the distinction between solicitor and barrister was looked upon as something of a curiosity.

Another welcome development so far as arbitrators were concerned was that relative youth was not seen as a barrier to achieving silk, provided you could demonstrate the necessary excellence across the competencies. This was enabling a more diverse cadre of QCs. On the subject of diversity, Constantine felt that he could, in hindsight, have given a better account of his diversity credentials on the application form. This meant that when it came to the interview, he had to give a very strong account on the diversity competence. He said he felt he did so by thinking carefully beforehand about what he had actually done in the area. He had a very good story to tell – regarding the recruitment policy to his firm – but he had to spell this out clearly to the Selection Panel interviewers. He said that assertions were no good – the Panel was after evidence of what you had done. He said that when diversity was part-and-parcel of who you are and what you did, it could, paradoxically, be challenging to tease this out.

How had he known that the time was right to apply for QC? Constantine said that he had never really given the matter much thought, but increasingly his peers and those he appeared before began suggesting he should consider applying for silk. After all, he had been doing complex high-value international arbitration for over a decade. Seeing other arbitration advocates achieving silk in recent competitions also spurred him on, although despite that he did have a lingering concern that the Panel might consider him to be “a bit too young” as yet for QC. This enabled him to remain reasonably relaxed about the eventual outcome: He did feel, however, that for some applicants the gap of almost a year between applying and hearing the outcome could be stressful.

Constantine did appreciate, however, that protecting the badge of QC as an internationally-recognised marque of excellence in advocacy meant that the process was necessarily rather lengthy, time-consuming and stretching. The length of the application form itself “demanded thoroughness”, which allowed for “no hiding places” for applicants who were less than excellent. He said that those working outside of chambers were potentially at a disadvantage to their barrister peers in terms of not having the collective wisdom and advice to draw upon. However, this could be overcome through proper and timely preparation, including seeking out those who had achieved success in previous competitions. The interview itself was appropriately challenging and testing, and Constantine felt that it had enabled him to do himself and his practice full justice.

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