Russell Thirgood is a Chartered Arbitrator who specialises in Construction & Infrastructure, Energy, Natural Resources and Commercial disputes, with an office in Brisbane and Chambers in London.
Prior to becoming a fulltime and independent arbitrator in 2020, Russell spent over 20 years at an Australian law firm, where he was partner and head of arbitration.
Russell is experienced in resolving complex and high value commercial disputes. He has conducted cases throughout Australia, the Pacific, Asia, US, UK, Middle-East and Europe, under some of the key international and domestic arbitral institutional rules. He has been appointed by parties, government and arbitral institutions, including the ICC, SIAC and ACICA.
As arbitrator, he is responsive to the needs of parties and their counsel to ensure all cases are conducted swiftly, effectively, efficiently. Counsel appearing before him often comment that he is well prepared, considered, collaborative and concise.
He is regularly recognised by the directories including Who’s Who Legal, Best Lawyers, Doyle’s Guide and Legal 500 Asia Pacific.
“Russell Thirgood is one of Australia’s pre-eminent Grade 1 arbitrators with extensive experience in high-value and complex construction related arbitrations”.
In 2022, Russell was awarded Australian Arbitrator of the Year at the Australian Law Awards.
Russell has over 25 years of experience in construction disputes typically arising from delay, disruption, prolongation, acceleration, global or total cost claims. He has also been involved in various disputes involving liquidated damages, the doctrine of penalties, extension of time, scope changes, force majeure, frustration, repudiation, termination, waiver, estoppel, quantum meruit, limitation and exclusion of liability, payment claims, security clauses, health and safety clauses, payment milestones, practical completion, substantial completion, final completion, bank guarantees, retention clauses, bonds, rail, roads, bridges, shipping ports and defects.
Experience consists of off-take, JV, royalty, sale and supply agreements, EPC, solar, windfarm and hydro contracts, renewables, coal mine development and infrastructure, oil and gas projects, iron ore mines, copper and gold mines, drilling and blast, oil refinery and pipeline contracts, put option deeds, climate change and environmental matters, valuation disputes, deeds of guarantee and indemnities. Russell’s expertise is broad and extends to matters involving limitation and exclusion of liability, letters of credit, security clauses, intellectual property clauses, health and safety clauses, force majeure, frustration, commercial impracticability, termination, repudiation, breach of warranty, forfeiture, design, defects, prolongation, delay, disruption, pricing disputes, variations, practical and mechanical completion, liquidated damages and payment milestone disputes.
Russell has over 25 years’ experience across a wide variety of commercial industries including fashion, defence, aviation, shipping, rail and road, agricultural, sugar, cotton, dairy, travel and tourism, medical centres, private and public health and, international business obligations. Russell’s expertise extends to a wide range of matters including business and human rights, contaminated land, operation, maintenance and catering contracts, finance, loan and security agreements, shipping and maritime, private and public property, consultancy and royalty agreements, body corporate matters, fraud, bribery and corruption, anti-trust, supply, distribution, website design, hosting and commercial contracts, intellectual property, information technology, health and safety, franchise, joint venture and shareholder agreements, lease and licencing disputes, restraint of trade clauses, guarantees, indemnities, abandonment of contract, waiver and estoppel.
Appointed as co-arbitrator in a SIAC arbitration involving parties from China and Vietnam in a dispute arising out of alleged breaches of a long-term coal supply agreement.
Appointed by SIAC in a dispute between German, Korean and Malaysian parties arising out of contracts for the supply of motor vehicles.
$10 million defects case arising out of the design and construction of a zinc refinery. Appointed by Resolution Institute.
Ad hoc arbitration in relation to a dispute pertaining to rectification of construction defects and liability arising out of a lease agreement. Appointed by the parties jointly.
Appointed by the President of the Queensland Law Society to resolve a royalty deed dispute between an Indian commodity trading entity and a mining company. The matter also includes the interpretation of various priority deeds arising out of a potential finance arrangement involving a state-owned bank and the dispute was valued at over AUD $100 million.
Ad hoc international arbitration involving various claims of a combined value of $80 million arising out of a rubber tyre gantry shipping port. Matter involved structural and geotechnical engineering analysis of the structural integrity of various pavements and the interpretation of a design and construct contract. The governing law was that of Papua New Guinea. Appointed jointly by the parties.
Appointed by the President of the Queensland Law Society to resolve various disputes arising out of the Building Management Statement for a 37-story building comprising residential apartments and various retail lots.
ICC expedited proceedings seated in Singapore between Malaysian and Indonesian parties. The matter involved the purchase of commodities from the UAE and the potential application of the principle of force majeure arising out of the global coronavirus pandemic.
ACICA expedited proceedings involving extension or time, delay and disruption, variation and liquidated damages claims arising out of a zinc-copper project.
Ad hoc international arbitration involving $50 million in defects claims to a shipping port in a Pacific Island nation.
ACICA Proceedings involving a USD$10 million repudiation claim arising out of a dispute concerning an iron ore mine and Chinese steel mill concerning an off-take agreement.
Appointed by Commonwealth Treasurer of Australia to resolve dispute involving the terms of a sugar contract between approximately 250 growers and the relevant sugar mill. The value of the contract (and arbitration award) is estimated to be $300 million.
$10 million claim against the defence force of a Pacific Island nation in relation to a catering services contract. Three awards delivered.
Dispute between government entity in its capacity as lessor and a private corporation as lessee regarding valuation of lease assets.
Construction dispute relating to variations, extension of time and liquidated damages claims.
Construction dispute between contractor and subcontractor relating to variations, extensions of time, delay, liquidated damages and defects claims.
Dispute between seller and purchaser of shopping centre regarding warranties and various defective works including the drainage system.
Restraint of trade dispute involving the sale of a cleaning and facilities management business.
Shareholders’ dispute relating to the dissolution of a global professional services business.
As Expert Determiner
Contaminated land dispute between a State Government regulator and international corporation.
Easement dispute pertaining to commercial and residential tower.
Dispute in respect to the construction of a commercial lease and whether there were breaches of contract by landlord and tenant.
Dispute between retail lots and residential lot of 37-storey building located in CBD.
Dispute between owner of shopping centre and contractor pertaining to construction defects.
Dispute arising out of dissolving a shareholders’ agreement and related trust deeds.
Dispute concerning extensions of time, variations, latent conditions and the dates for practical completion for various separable portions pertaining to the design and construction of a service centre
Commercial dispute between buyer and seller of medical centre.
Workplace dispute between senior officers of a regional based local council.
Commercial dispute regarding the termination of a maintenance contract.
Commercial dispute between Chinese property developer and contractor regarding misleading and deceptive conduct allegations.
Construction dispute between the owner of a shopping centre and fitout contractor.
Commercial dispute between ASX listed financier and owner of a shopping centre in relation to the supply and financing of equipment.
As Counsel, Arbitration
For over 20 years, Russell Thirgood has acted for clients as counsel in complex and high value commercial matters before international and domestic arbitral tribunals, in superior courts in Australia and internationally, including to enforce international arbitral awards.
Strategic advice in relation to Bilateral Investment Treaty arbitration in relation to $6 billion coal project. The matter involved Indian parties.
Advising US oil and gas company in relation to enforcement of arbitration awards arising out of proceedings seated in Houston, Texas in the Supreme Court. The matter involved Texan law and a claim in the order of $1 billion in royalty payments.
ICC arbitration acting for drilling company against Dutch dredging company in relation to dredging project. The hearing took place in Hong Kong and evidence was gathered in London.
Series of 7 arbitration hearings and related Supreme Court proceedings over a 9 year period involving an Indian company and a Chinese company relating to $1.8 billion coal terminal.
Enforcing London Court of International Arbitration award for a Singapore based shipping company (including obtaining freezing orders and an anti-suit injunction). The governing law was that of Singapore.
ICC arbitration in Mexico concerning construction of oil refinery and pipeline.
Resisting enforcement of ICC award against a Kolkata based Indian coking coal company.
ICC arbitration seated in Malaysia regarding provision of services to an oil refinery project. The governing law was that of Malaysia.
JCAA arbitration concerning oil refinery project in the Middle East. The matter involved Japanese law.
Setting aside arbitral award of the International Cotton Association regarding cotton supply contracts between American and Chinese companies. The matter involved Californian law.
Domestic arbitration in relation to design and construction defects for a government owned water treatment plant.
Domestic arbitration concerning defective construction work claim relating to a 5 star prestigious resort complex.
As Counsel, Construction & Commercial litigation
Shareholder dispute involving Supreme Court litigation and a $60 million claim against a PRC and Hong Kong based fashion clothing retail group for unpaid consultancy and development fees. The matter involved Hong Kong law.
Supreme Court litigation involving an Indian and Swiss company regarding strategic control in respect to the operation of a coal terminal. The matter involved allegations in respect to breach of contract, intellectual property rights, workplace health and safety obligations and confidentiality obligations.
Acting for the owner of a port in relation to a suite of disputes from a range of contractors in respect to the expansion of a coal terminal. The combined value of these construction claims was circa $500 million. The matter involved Indian investment and claims in respect to delay, disruption, prolongation, acceleration, global or total cost claims, liquidated damages, the doctrine of penalties, extension of time, scope changes, force majeure, frustration, repudiation, termination, waiver, estoppel, quantum meruit, limitation and exclusion of liability, payment claims, practical completion, substantial completion, final completion, bank guarantees and construction defects.
Acting for a public hospital in relation to $80 million operation and maintenance contract and various disputes involving a Canadian based facilities management contractor which were resolved through adjudication.
Acting for government in relation to its design and construction of a cultural centre and multimillion dollar claims arising out of the precinct bridge.
Acting for a balance of plant contractor in relation to the construction of two wind farms with a combined contract value of circa $150 million. The matter involved investment from Mainland China.
Various disputes involving Chinese joint venture parties in relation to variations and extensions of time that were resolved through expert determination.
Various disputes involving Chinese developer and building contractor regarding a high-rise development.
Acting for a construction contractor and its senior officers in respect of Supreme Court proceedings arising out of the development and construction of an office building.
Acting for a government owned corporation in multi-party Supreme Court litigation concerning the design and construction of a rail levee bank.
Acting for a Chinese company in relation to a series of cases regarding the construction and operation of a coal mine.
Acting for American coal mining company in relation to $500 million claim concerning the construction and operation of a coal mine.
Acting for a contractor in $100 million case in Supreme Court (including Court of Appeal) regarding wrongful termination of an infrastructure and construction contract at a gold and copper mine.
Acting for a large home builder in relation to regulatory and licensing issues arising out of construction activities.
Acting for property development group in relation to regulatory issues pertaining to their business activities.
Acting for a health fund in Administrative Appeals Tribunal hearing arising out of decision of national regulator in respect to corporate governance issues.
Acting for prominent building contractor in Royal Commission proceedings into trade union corruption.
Acting for international time share holiday group in relation to investigation brought by Securities and Investment Commission for misleading and deceptive conduct.
Acting in Federal Court proceedings for Asia Pacific construction group in relation to appealing decisions made by Tax Office.
Acting for government in construction dispute concerning delay and variation claims for a water treatment plant.
Acting in joint venture and shareholder dispute between State Owned Chinese and Australian construction companies.
Acting for a major international airport in an expert determination with multi-national oil company concerning the imposition of a fuel levy.
Acting for a coal mine defending adjudication and litigation proceedings in relation to mining infrastructure including the largest private rail loop.
Acting for an ASX listed mining company in relation to claims arising out of the $500 million construction of a coal mine and coal handling preparation plant.
Acting for a construction contractor in relation to Supreme Court review of Security for Payment legislation claims for various construction works.
Acting for a travel agent company in multi-party action brought by former employees in the Supreme Court for misleading and deceptive conduct.
Acting for a global supplier of mining equipment in relation to the protection of its intellectual property.
Acting for the Body Corporate of a Holiday Resort in Supreme Court proceedings against a prominent developer and glass supplier regarding alleged construction defects to residential tower.
Acting for a crane company in proceedings arising out of a multiple fatality at a Holiday Resort. The matter involved the consideration of complex structural engineering evidence.
Acting for a Japanese contractor, in relation to various construction claims in Supreme Court against electrical contractor.
Acting in a dispute between a Dutch contractor and a drilling and blast subcontractor in Supreme Court in relation to defective drilling rigs.
Litigation in Supreme Court of Indonesia involving expert evidence and lay witnesses located in Nigeria, Thailand, USA, Pakistan and Australia.
Amicus brief (co-counsel with Weil, Gotshal & Manges) in matter in the Supreme Court of the USA.
Graduate Diploma in Construction Law (University of Melbourne) 2013
Master of Laws (First Class Hons) (University of Sydney) 2003
Bachelor of Laws (Hons) (University of Queensland) 1993-1998
Executive Program on Negotiation (Harvard Law School) 2016
Bachelor of Arts (University of Queensland) 1993-1998
Diploma in International Commercial Arbitration (Chartered Institute of Arbitrators)
‘Australian Courts’ Approach to Multi-Party and Multi-Contract Arbitration’ (2016) 2 The ACICA Review 29
‘ADR Forms and Precedents’ (Lexis Nexis) (2009 to present)
‘International Arbitration: The Justice Business’ (2004) 21(4) Journal of International Arbitration 341
‘A Critique of Foreign Arbitration in Japan’ (2001) 18(2) Journal of International Arbitration 177
‘Judicial Independence: Attorney-General (Cth) v Tse Chu-Fai’ (2000) 74(10) Australian Law Journal 707
‘A Critique of Foreign Arbitration in China’ (2000) 17(3) Journal of International Arbitration 89
‘Dispute Resolution Chinese Style – The Influences’ (1999) 10(4) Australasian Dispute Resolution Journal 266
‘Mediator Intervention to Ensure Fair and Just Outcomes’ (1999) 10(2) Australasian Dispute Resolution Journal 142
"Russell has demonstrated exceptional analytical skills in addition to acute judgement" – Who’s Who Legal: Arbitration 2024
"He is highly efficient, well organised and makes sound procedural and substantive decisions"- Who’s Who Legal: Arbitration 2024
"He communicates very effectively"- Who’s Who Legal: Arbitration 2024
“Russell Thirgood Highly experienced and very measured in his approach” – Who’s Who Legal: Construction 2023
“I was extremely impressed by the diligent, courteous and efficient way you conducted the arbitration in which I appeared”
Russell Thirgood is lauded by peers for his “impressive understanding of construction law” –Who’s Who Legal 2020
“Russell Thirgood is one of Australia’s pre-eminent Grade 1 arbitrators with extensive experience in high-value and complex construction related arbitrations.”
“Russell’s outstanding contribution to Resolution Institute and previously the Institute of Arbitrators and Mediators Australia (IAMA) as a board member, editor of The Arbitrator and Mediator journal and author of the Resolution Institute’s Arbitration Rules has seen him become a highly respected thought leader within the Australian arbitral community”
‘Russell Thirgood is an esteemed construction lawyer and a go-to-adviser to major industry players’ – Who’s Who Legal: Construction 2020
‘Russell Thirgood is an experienced and highly regarded Australian commercial arbitrator, known for fair and efficient arbitral proceedings and the production of high-quality awards in complex matters, drawing upon his more than two decades experience in large-scale construction disputes.’
‘Russell Thirgood is an authority on major construction disputes both in Australia and
internationally’ – Who’s Who Legal: Construction 2018
‘Outstanding communicator and practical strategist valued for his effective organisation of complex construction litigation’ – Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2018
‘Russell is uncompromising in his approach to work and in the pursuit of successful outcomes for clients’ – Best Lawyers 2018
‘In his field Russell Thirgood is much sought after by experienced litigants because of his intelligence, diligence, toughness, commercial nous and above all experience in large scale construction disputes.’ - President of the Australian Bar Association, 2017
Russell’s recent directory listings include:
2023 Best Lawyers – International Arbitration; Construction and Infrastructure Law and Alternative Dispute Resolution
2023 Who’s Who Legal – Construction: Australia and New Zealand and, Construction Thought Leaders
2023 Doyles Guide – Leading Arbitration Lawyers, Australia
2022 Best Lawyers – International Arbitration; Construction and Infrastructure Law and Alternative Dispute Resolution
2022 Who’s Who Legal – Construction: Australia and New Zealand and, Construction
2022 Doyles Guide – Leading Arbitration Lawyers, Australia
2022 Australian Law Awards – Best Australian Arbitrator
2021 Best Lawyers – International Arbitration Lawyer of the Year: Brisbane, recommended for Construction and Infrastructure Law and recommended for Alternative Dispute Resolution
2021 Who’s Who Legal – Construction: Australia and New Zealand and, Construction Thought Leaders
2020 Doyles Guide – Leading Arbitration Lawyers, Australia
2020 Client Choice Award – Construction Law (Australia)
2020 Who’s Who Legal – Construction, Construction Thought Leaders and Australia
2020 Legal 500 Asia Pacific – Recommended for Dispute Resolution and recommended for Project Development
2020 Best Lawyers – Recommended for Alternative Dispute Resolution and recommended for Alternative Dispute Resolution and for Litigation
2019 Best Lawyers – Recommended for Litigation, International Arbitration and Construction and Infrastructure Law
2019 Who’s Who Legal – Construction, Thought Leaders Construction and Australia
‘Russell’s outstanding contribution to Resolution Institute and previously the Institute of Arbitrators and Mediators Australia (IAMA) as a board member, editor of The Arbitrator and Mediator journal and author of the Resolution Institute’s Arbitration Rules has seen him become a highly respected thought leader within the Australian arbitral community”
Gary Ulman, Chair Resolution Institute, Australia 2019
Russell Thirgood is lauded by peers for his “impressive understanding of construction law”
Who’s Who Legal 2020
Russell Thirgood is one of Australia’s pre-eminent Grade 1 arbitrators with extensive experience in
high-value and complex construction related arbitrations.