Watson, Duncan

Duncan Watson



Duncan is a partner in Quinn Emanuel’s Hong Kong office (having also practiced in our Sydney and London offices). Duncan specialises in international arbitration, and is qualified in both Australia and England & Wales. He has acted for multinational corporations and high net worth individuals based in Korea, Indonesia, China, India, Russia, Denmark, South Africa, the Middle East, Australia, the US and the UK.

Duncan has acted as counsel in international commercial arbitrations under most arbitral institutions and rules, including the ICC, LCIA, HKIAC, SCC, CAA, UNCITRAL and SCAI. Duncan has also acted in multiple investment treaty arbitrations administered by ICSID, and advised investors on their rights and remedies under other international instruments.

Chambers & Partners notes Duncan’s “meticulous, detail-oriented approach”, and quotes a client as saying that, as an advocate, Duncan “commanded the stage and was a real star” (2018).  Who’s Who Legal named Duncan a “future leader” in international arbitration.  In 2016, it noted that he “stands out in Australia, and is feted for his ‘immediate and complete grasp of technical issues’”, and in 2017, it said that he “boasts a strong practice in Asia and is highlighted as ‘a very impressive young partner’”. 

Duncan also sits as arbitrator; and is a Fellow of the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA) and a member of the HKIAC’s List of Arbitrators. He also regularly publishes and lectures on topical issues in commercial and investment treaty arbitration around the region, including advocacy.


  • NuCoal Resources Limited
  • Viva Energy Australia Ltd
  • Lend Lease
  • Core Carbon Group ApS
  • GS Engineering & Construction


Disputes Involving Sovereign States

  • Acting for a Chinese digital media company in a $200 million claim against the Government of a West African sovereign State, in a London seated ICC arbitration.
  • Acting for NuCoal Resources Ltd and its shareholders in respect of actions taken by the Government of New South Wales regarding a valuable coal exploration licence, including preparations for an arbitration against the Commonwealth of Australia under the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement.
  • Acting for a Singaporean shipping conglomerate in an investment treaty dispute with Mexico.
  • Acted for a Jordanian investor in three bilateral investment treaty arbitrations against Egypt in respect of political interference and frustration of a nation-wide integrated customs and shipping monitoring system.

Commercial Disputes

  • Acting for Korean steel company in a $200+ million ICC arbitration against its Australian joint venture partner concerning payments made under long term offtake contracts (Perth seat).
  • Acting for a Korean private equity firm in a $200 million breach of warranty claim with respect to the purchase of a major insurance provider, in a Hong Kong seated ICC arbitration.
  • Acting for a Korean private equity firm in a $1.1 billion breach of warranty claim with respect to the purchase of a major retail chain (London seat, ICC Rules).
  • Acting for a Chinese investment vehicle in a $100 million breach of contract claim, in a Hong Kong seated HKIAC arbitration.
  • Acting for a European bank and its Hong Kong branch in a $200+ million breach of contract dispute (Taipei seat, CAA Rules).
  • Acting for an Australian natural gas purchaser in a price review arbitration (Perth seat, ad hoc).
  • Acted for a Fortune 500 beverages company in a dispute against its Indian distributor, in a Hong Kong seated HKIAC arbitration.
  • Acted for a Korean construction conglomerate in a subcontractor dispute arising out of a gas refinery project in Kuwait, in a London seated ICC arbitration.
  • Acted for Korean ship-building company in a multi-party dispute concerning allegedly faulty components in a number of deepwater drillships.
  • Acted for a Chinese trading company in a $50 million dispute concerning the sale of an alleged defective machine for the production of newsprint, in a Hong Kong seated UNCITRAL arbitration.
  • Acted for a Chinese electronics manufacturer in a dispute concerning the sale of defective machinery for the production of solar cells, in a Hong Kong seated HKIAC arbitration.
  • Acted for several wealthy Russian individuals, defending a US$3 billion LCIA Arbitration in respect of a high-profile commercial property development brought by a former business partner.
  • Acted for Russian businessman and entrepreneur Oleg Deripaska in his High Court proceedings against Michael Cherney, one of the largest and most complex commercial disputes ever to come to trial in the High Court.
  • Acted for Core Carbon Group in a Stockholm Chamber of Commerce Arbitration relating to investments in carbon credit projects in Russia. Succeeded in obtaining an award for the client in excess of US$150 million, together with the full costs of the arbitration.
  • Acted for Viva Energy Australia Ltd in its successful defence of urgent injunction proceedings brought by its alliance partner, Eureka Operations Pty Ltd (part of the Coles Group), to prevent Viva from proceeding with a planned $2.1 billion listed real estate investment trust.
  • Acted for an Indonesian State-owned bank, defending a $50 million LCIA Arbitration in respect of allegedly fraudulent repo transactions (London seat).
  • Acted for GS Engineering & Construction in English High Court litigation in respect of its purchase of two Algerian water treatment plants.
  • Acted for a South African mining company, defending US$1 billion Swiss Chambers and ICC arbitrations brought by a Russian resources company in respect of a failed mine construction project.


  • University of Oxford
    (Bachelor of Civil Law, Distinction, 2010)
  • University of Queensland
    (Bachelor of Laws, First Class Honours, 2005)
    (Bachelor of Arts, International Relations and Psychology, 2004)


Admitted as a Legal Practitioner of the Supreme Court of Queensland and the High Court of Australia, England & Wales, New South Wales


  • Allens Arthur Robinson:
    • Lawyer, 2008-2009

  • Associate to the Honourable Justice M. Wilson:
    • Supreme Court of Queensland, 2006-2007