Catherine Amirfar is Co-Chair of Debevoise’s International Dispute Resolution Group and the Public International Law Group, and a member of the firm’s ...
Read Full Biography
Catherine Amirfar is Co-Chair of Debevoise’s International Dispute Resolution Group and the Public International Law Group, and a member of the firm’s Management Committee. Her practice focuses on public international law, international commercial and treaty arbitration and international and complex commercial litigation.
With over twenty years of litigation experience, Ms. Amirfar is ranked among the top international legal practitioners in the world by Chambers Global (2021). Her practice focuses on international commercial and treaty arbitration, international litigation and public international law. She regularly appears in U.S. courts and before international courts and arbitration tribunals, including the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Her practice includes the representation of states, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and multinational companies.
Ms. Amirfar currently serves as President of the American Society of International Law (ASIL), for which she has co-hosted a podcast called “International Law Behind the Headlines,” She also serves as a Member of the U.S. Department of State’s Advisory Committee on International Law, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Advisory Committees of the American Law Institute for the Restatement (Fourth) of Foreign Relations Law of the United States and for the Restatement of the U.S. Law of International Commercial Arbitration. Ms. Amirfar is a member of the Governing Board of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA), the leading global organization of international arbitrators and arbitration practitioners, and serves as Co-Chair of the ICCA-ASIL Task Force on Damages in International Arbitration. She is also a member of the Court of Arbitration of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and the International Centre for Dispute Resolution of the American Arbitration Association.
Prior to rejoining Debevoise in 2016, Ms. Amirfar spent two years as the Counselor on International Law to the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State. During her tenure as Counselor, Ms. Amirfar advised the State Department on its most significant litigation matters involving international law and foreign relations, and liaised with senior officials of the Departments of Justice and Defense, the National Security Council and the Office of White House Counsel. She represented the United States before international bodies and broadly advised the State Department on international legal issues arising in the areas of human rights, armed conflict, sovereign and diplomatic immunity, international arbitration and claims settlement and the intersection of U.S. and international law, including with respect to issues before the Security Council. Ms. Amirfar received the State Department’s Superior Honor Award in recognition of her contributions to the Department.
Ms. Amirfar has written extensively on international arbitration, the relationship between international law and U.S. domestic law, international human rights and humanitarian law; investor-state disputes; and the law of consular and diplomatic immunities. She is a frequent lecturer on international law and has guest lectured at Yale Law School and NYU Law School, among others. Ms. Amirfar originally joined the firm in 2002 and became a partner in 2008. From 2000 to 2002, she clerked for the Hon. D.A. Batts, Southern District of New York. She received a J.D. cum laude from New York University Law School in 2000, where she was a Root-Tilden-Snow Scholar. She served as an editor for the NYU Law Review and was awarded top honors in the NYU Orison S. Marden Moot Court Competition. She received a B.A., with honors, from Stanford University in 1995.
Ms. Amirfar has been named a “Litigator of the Week” by The American Lawyer, an award which recognizes achievements in “the nation’s most complex high-profile cases” which impact “the biggest breakthrough decisions in America’s courtrooms.” She is also recognized as a leading lawyer in numerous legal industry publications, including:
Chambers and Partners:
- 2021 – where sources describe her as “one of the top lawyers in the world.” She is said to “excel at managing the most complex and cutting-edge issues” and is regularly sought out by clients for her expertise on investor-state arbitration and inter-state disputes in human rights and boundary matters. (Arbitration (International) and Public International Law – Global).
- 2021 – where sources describe her as “a pleasure to work with; she is always straightforward and speaks in a way that distills complex information so it's readily understood. She is thoughtful, intelligent, grounded and incredibly knowledgeable.” (International Arbitration – USA).
- 2020 – where sources describe her as “outstanding,” “a superb advocate” and “a very skillful cross-examiner.” She is said to maintain an excellent reputation for her expertise in PIL and for her representation of both investors and states in complex disputes. (Arbitration (International) and Public International Law – Global-wide).
- 2020 – where she is recognized as being highly experienced in investment treaty arbitrations and regularly acts for states and investors, drawing on her expertise as a former adviser to the U.S. Department of State. (International Arbitration – USA).
- 2019 – where she attracts praise as a “phenomenal lawyer” and “an incredible oral advocate.” Based in New York, she is highly sought after for her adept handling of big-ticket investment treaty disputes and is commendably active as PIL counsel to states on international environmental law and human rights issues. (Public International Law – Global-wide). She is also recognized as a “very talented lawyer,” who “is really, really good in investment arbitration.” She is very active in the field, acting as counsel for investors and states in a range of disputes. She also offers significant experience in commercial mandates, notably in the pharmaceuticals sector. (Arbitration (International) – Global-wide).
- 2019 – where she is well regarded for her representation of sovereigns and multinational corporations in complex commercial and investment treaty arbitrations. Fellow practitioners describe her as “incredibly accomplished” and note her “impressive skills” in arbitral disputes. Her credentials in the field are considerably burnished by her former role advising on international law in the U.S. Department of State. (International Arbitration – USA).
- 2021 – where sources say “she is a lawyer of amazingly strong skills in written and oral advocacy” and “she is a delight to work with because she is authoritative and provides not only sound legal counsel but also sound practical counsel.” According to others, she is “one of the best arbitration lawyers out there.” (Chambers USA).
- 2020 – where sources say “she is always straightforward and speaks in a way that distills complex information so it’s readily understood. She is thoughtful, intelligent, grounded and incredibly knowledgeable,” and “a very skillful cross-examiner.” (Chambers USA).
- 2019 – where sources described her as “one of the finest advocates with whom I have ever worked,” highlighting “her mastery of the substance of international legal issues and her judgment as to legal strategy.” (Chambers USA).
- 2018 – where sources describe her as “a class act,” and praise “her mastery of the relevant laws and her use of emotional intelligence to communicate effectively.”
- 2014 – which described her as “very composed, intelligent and a master of investment arbitration.”
- 2014 – where she was selected in the United States as the “Pro Bono Private Practice Lawyer of the Year.”
- 2021 – where she is recognized as “International Arbitration Litigator of the Year,” as a “National Practice Area Star,” a “Local Litigation Star” and named as one of the “Top 250 Women in Litigation.”
- 2019 – where sources say she is “an incredible expert on all things international treaty-wise.”
- 2019, 2018 and 2017 – which recognized her as one of its “Top 250 Women in Litigation,” stating that her “expertise in international commercial and treaty arbitration, international and complex commercial litigation, and public international law practice is ‘one of the best in the country.’”
- 2014 and 2015 – named her a Litigation Star.
Who’s Who Legal: Arbitration:
- 2021 – where she is named a Global Elite Thought Leader, and where she is noted as “quick-thinking and experienced” and “one of the best on Middle East issues.” Sources say that she possesses “a stellar intellect and great skills in oral advocacy.”
- 2020 – where she is named a Thought Leader, and where sources relate that she “will be a leader of the international arbitration group at the firm, and is an obvious one to watch.”
- 2019 – where she is named a Thought Leader and “draws praise as ‘an excellent advocate’ with a stellar investment treaty practice. ‘She’s a star and does a superb job in complex cases.’”
- 2018 and 2017 – where she was lauded as “absolutely first rate, with a spectacular breadth of experience.”
The Legal 500 US:
- 2020 – where she is ranked as a Leading Lawyer and described as “grounded, wildly smart, and tremendously hardworking.” In addition, sources say “her sense of humor, level-headedness, and practical guidance are qualities that make working with her a pleasure when the stakes are high. There are very few lawyers of her caliber in the field.”
- 2019 – where she is ranked as a Leading Lawyer.
- 2018 – where she is ranked as a Leading Lawyer and described as “strategically savvy.”
- New York University School of Law, 2000, J.D.
- Stanford University, 1995, B.A.