Mr. Donovan has long been regarded as one of the leading public international lawyers, international arbitration practitioners, and international advocates in the world. Having retired from active practice as counsel and advocate at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP at the end of 2021, Mr. Donovan will now devote his practice to service as arbitrator in major international cases.

During his career at Debevoise, Mr. Donovan regularly argued before the International Court of Justice and other international courts; before investor-state tribunals constituted under the ICSID Convention, a range of bilateral investment treaties, and other instruments; and before commercial arbitration tribunals sitting around the world, constituted under the auspices of the world’s leading arbitration institutions, and hearing disputes in a wide range of economic sectors.

In the United States, Mr. Donovan argued international law, arbitration law, and commercial law cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, several of the U.S. Courts of Appeals, and other federal and state courts.

In the course of his Debevoise career, he represented states, multinational corporations, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations. At the time of his retirement from Debevoise, Mr. Donovan had long served as co-chair of both its International Disputes Resolution Group and its Public International Law Group.

Mr. Donovan has also regularly sat as arbitrator in international cases, including under the auspices of ICSID, the PCA, the ICC, and the ICDR, as president, chair, sole arbitrator, and co-arbitrator.

Among many other positions, Mr. Donovan served as President of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA) from 2016 to 2018; as President of the American Society of International Law (ASIL) from 2012 to 2014; and as Chair of the Institute for Transnational Arbitration (ITA) from 2000 to 2005. He has served as a Member of the U.S. Department of State’s Advisory Committee on International Law and as a Member of 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 and Investor-State Arbitration.

Since 2013, Mr. Donovan has taught a full-semester course in International Investment Law and Arbitration at the New York University School of Law, and from 2004 to 2012, a full-semester course there in International Arbitration. He has also taught international arbitration courses at Tsinghua University in Beijing, at the International Academy for Arbitration Law in Paris, and at the University of Auckland.

Mr. Donovan joined Debevoise in 1987 after serving as legal assistant to Judge Howard M. Holtzmann of the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal and, before that, as law clerk to Associate Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Jerome J. Farris of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and Judge Abraham D. Sofaer of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He received his J.D. in 1981 from Stanford Law School, where he served on the Stanford Law Review and was elected to the Order of the Coif, and his B.A. in 1977 from the University of Virginia, where he graduated with highest distinction in Political and Social Thought.


  • Stanford Law School, 1981, J.D.
  • University of Virginia, 1977, B.A.

Bar Admissions

  • New York