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David W. Rivkin is a retired partner. He was a litigation partner in the New York and London offices of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, with broad experience in the areas of international litigation and arbitration. He served as Co-Chair of the firm’s International Dispute Resolution Group for more than 20 years, and he is a Past President of the International Bar Association (IBA).

Mr. Rivkin has been consistently ranked as one of the top international dispute resolution practitioners in the world. Chambers Global (2022) identified Mr. Rivkin as one of the top 10 international arbitration practitioners worldwide, describing him as “an extraordinarily bright, thoughtful and clear advocate.” Previous editions of the guide have recognized his demonstrated “aptitude for complex, high-stakes disputes” in international arbitration, and highlighted his achievement in securing one of the largest ICSID awards ever. Sources say that he is “a leading light and one of the most respected figures.” Chambers Latin America (2023) ranks Mr. Rivkin as a leading international arbitration lawyer and has described him as “an accomplished arbitrator” and a “very thorough and focused lawyer with excellent advocacy skills.” Other Chambers publications have noted that he is “incredibly sage and insightful,” “outstanding,” “a true giant in the field, whose depth of knowledge is incredible,” and that “his advocacy skills are without parallel.”

Mr. Rivkin frequently advised companies on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) matters and compliance. He is one of the principal authors of the firm’s ESG Resource Center and of the UN-commissioned report “UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights at 10.”

In 2014, when The American Lawyer named Debevoise the Litigation Department of the Year, one client’s General Counsel noted, “The thing that impresses me about lawyers is when they come up with better answers to problems than I do. Every once in a while, you encounter a lawyer who has really created the better answers. David W. Rivkin is that lawyer.”

In 2012, The American Lawyer’s Am Law Litigation Daily named Mr. Rivkin one of two “Global Lawyers of the Year.” In 2011, the National Law Journal named him one of the country’s “Most Influential Attorneys.” He has also been ranked as the leading American in international arbitration in Who’s Who Legal (2016) and in Euromoney’s Expert Guide to the Leading Lawyers: Best of the Best (2017).

Mr. Rivkin's other recognitions include:

  • Consistently ranked in the top tier of International Arbitration counsel and arbitrators in Chambers USA, where he is lauded as “the best arbitration practitioner anywhere in the world,” and “one of the real stars in the business.”
  • Included in its Hall of Fame and listed as a leading lawyer for International Arbitration and International Litigation in The Legal 500 US (2022), the guide has noted that his “willingness to take ownership and bring innovative thoughts … is what makes Debevoise’s arbitration practice strong.”
  • Included in its Hall of Fame and listed as a leading lawyer for International Arbitration and International Litigation in The Legal 500 US (2020-2021), the guide has described him as “the best international arbitration practitioner,” who is “brilliant in his knowledge, but also the kind of lawyer who can serve as a trusted advisor.” According to one source “David Rivkin’s oral advocacy was the best I have ever seen.”
  • Listed as a leading lawyer for International Arbitration and International Litigation in The Legal 500 US (2019), which has described him as “excellent.”
  • Listed as a leading lawyer for International Arbitration in The Legal 500 US (2018), which has described him as “a brilliant lawyer and tactician” with an “analytical mind.”  
  • Who’s Who Legal: Arbitration, which recognizes him as a Global Elite Thought Leader, has described him as a “senior statesman” whose “oral advocacy is beyond compare.” The guide has further noted that “David W. Rivkin is known to everybody and respected by all” and that he “knows all there is to know about the world of arbitration.”
  • Along with Debevoise partner Christopher Tahbaz and co-counsel Bae Kim & Lee, awarded the GAR 2010 Arbitration Win of the Year for representation of Hyundai Heavy Industries.
  • Debevoise won the Chambers USA Award for Excellence in International Arbitration in both 2012 and 2013, and its Latin America Award in 2012, 2014 and 2015. In 2006, Mr. Rivkin and partner Donald Francis Donovan won the first Chambers Award for Excellence as the top international arbitration lawyers in the United States.
  • Named a Litigation Trailblazer by the National Law Journal (2015). This award highlights the “who’s who of the litigation professionals going above and beyond the norm, and bringing about meaningful change through their work.”

He has handled international arbitrations throughout the world and before virtually every major arbitration institution. Subjects of these arbitrations have included long-term energy concessions, investment treaties, joint venture agreements, insurance coverage, construction contracts, distribution agreements and intellectual property, among others, and they have involved common law, civil law, Islamic law and other systems. Mr. Rivkin also represents companies in transnational litigation in the United States, including the enforcement of arbitral awards and arbitration agreements.

Mr. Rivkin is a Past President of the International Bar Association (IBA), whose membership includes more than 100,000 members and 200 bar associations. He was the first American to serve in that position in 25 years. In the IBA, he has previously served as Chair of the Legal Practice Division, which includes more than 50 substantive committees, and of the Committee on Arbitration and ADR (Committee D). Mr. Rivkin is a member of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS), which supervises the Court of Arbitration for Sport, on which he has served for 20 years. He is also Deputy President of ICAS’s Anti-Doping Division. Mr. Rivkin is a council member of the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration and serves on the boards of the Mumbai Centre for International Arbitration and the Mauritius Arbitration and Mediation Centre. He is a past President of the North American Users’ Council of the LCIA, for which he previously served as Vice President of the Court, was a Vice Chair of the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce and a former member of the Boards of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and the American Arbitration Association, for which he also served as a member of its Executive Committee and Chair of the Law Committee and headed task forces to revise the Association’s international and commercial arbitration rules. He is a member of the Council of the American Law Institute, for which he is an Adviser to the Restatement of the Law of International Arbitration, and a Councillor to the Restatement of Foreign Relations Law. He held leadership positions within the ABA’s Litigation Section for twenty years, including five years as Co-Chair of the International Litigation Committee and a member of the Section’s Council and its Director of Divisions. He is a Fellow of the London-based Chartered Institute of Arbitrators; a Fellow of the College of Commercial Arbitrators; a member of the Commission on Settlement in International Arbitration of the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR); a member of the Centro Internacional de Arbitraje, Mediacion y Negociacion of the Instituto Universitario de Estudios Europeas, Universidad de San Pablo in Madrid; and a member of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.

Mr. Rivkin is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He was appointed by the U.S. State and Commerce Departments to be a founding member of the NAFTA Advisory Committee on Private Commercial Disputes. He is a member of the U.S. Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Private International Law and a member of the Sanctions Subcommittee of the Department of State’s Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy (ACIEP). He is also a Trustee of the Magna Carta Trust and serves as a member of the Board of BritishAmerican Business.

He is a member of many arbitration panels, including the AAA, CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution, Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (where he sits as a Co-Chair), Singapore International Arbitration Centre, Japan Commercial Arbitration Association, Chinese International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC), the Cairo Regional Arbitration Centre, the Fédération International de l’Automobile (FIA) and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). In August 2008, Mr. Rivkin served as a member of the Ad Hoc Division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. He previously served on the panel for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

Mr. Rivkin graduated from Yale University in 1977 with a B.A. magna cum laude and received a J.D. from Yale in 1980. From 1980 to 1981, he served as law clerk to the Hon. Luther M. Swygert, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He has been with Debevoise ever since.


  • Yale Law School, 1980, J.D.
  • Yale University, 1977, B.A.

Bar Admissions

  • New York