Meet the Authors: Paul Starr

Aug 2020


Paul Starr is the co-head of our global arbitration team and a real driving force behind its constant advancement.  He was interviewed by Tiffany Siu, an Australian qualified lawyer in our Hong Kong team.

 Tell us how it all started.  Did you have a summer job during your high school years in UK? What did you do?

I worked as an oast hand for Guinness Beer in Kent, England, with two other school friends.  In the first year, we got bullied. One of our jobs was to guard the free Beer: we had to fight off the farm workers. There was no running water: we had baths once a week in the town. We were so dirty and looked so tough that, when we boarded the bus, the local thugs shut up.  We had to load lorries with bales of hops: one poor driver got fined for overhanging bales.  When we went back in year two, we were feted by everyone. No one had ever been back. Farmers’ wives brought us chickens – I think that is all they brought.  It is spooky now, but I thought at the time: “Hmmm – wouldn’t it be good if the BBC filmed us now, and then filmed us again in twenty years?”.  A missed chance as the first ever virtual reality star.

What’s the difference between that Paul Starr and the Paul Starr now?

My weight.

You’ve stayed in Hong Kong for over 34 years. What is so unique about Hong Kong and the work that you are doing that made you stay for so long?

The food and the people. It is so cosmopolitan here – I love coming back to my tiny, tiny bachelor apartment, which I have rented since 1990.  Up until last year, the rent rarely went up.  Now, the landlady has passed it to her son – guess what has happened.

What’s your advice to young lawyers just starting out in dispute resolution?

DR is vocational: you have to want to do it. You need a passion for arbitration and/or a passion for litigation. Don’t pick DR as your second choice: it must be in your blood.  After that – don’t f it up.

“Don’t pick DR as your second choice: it must be in your blood.  After that – don’t f%&$ it up.”

How do you handle stress in general?

I bite my nails – terrible habit.

 Work has brought you all around the world. Was there somewhere particularly memorable?

Oh yes, power station site visit in Guatemela – all on my own with clients – my colleagues and the Arbitrators wouldn’t come. “Take photos, Mr. Starr” they said. I have written a whole play about it, with the real emails to and from the Tribunal.  I was determined to wear my black suit and tie – in the 100 Fahrenheit sun.  On arrival, I had machine guns pointed at me by the (later friendly) site guards.  I had to wait hours in the heat for the Tribunal to wake up in UK and Australia, to get a repeat direction to let me in.  By the end of the 3-day visit, we all got on so well that when I said I couldn’t visit that day, but my clients would still attend, they insisted that I change my plans!

What is still on your travel bucket list?

It’s not about ticking off countries any more, it’s about going to places I love with people.  Let me show you Las Vegas, LA, Paris, Rome – yes I am a city person.  In a fit of boundless enthusiasm (drunk) pre-covid, I bought with friends a plot of land in Majorca, Spain.  It was so dirt cheap, we probably don’t even own it.  After developing it over the next 100 years, you are all welcome to visit.


Tiffany is a former member of KWM's Hong Kong Dispute Resolution Team.

Subscribe to KWM Pulse Updates