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In 2016, while still actively practicing corporate law, I encountered one of the most frightening challenges of my career during a high-stakes arbitration case in Geneva.

I found myself deeply involved in a trial concerning a staggering $325 million allegedly misappropriated from a joint construction project by a Ukrainian businessman and another influential business tycoon. The high-profile nature of the parties and the substantial sums involved significantly amplified the pressure of the situation.

Navigating the Legal Labyrinth

I was thrust into the eye of the storm, called to testify as a witness. The task was daunting: I needed to provide clear and honest insights from a due diligence exercise conducted years earlier while meticulously maintaining the balance of legal privilege—ensuring that no confidential information was disclosed, even if it could potentially assist in the proceedings.

Facing the Gauntlet

The climax of this ordeal was my cross-examination by a leading QC from the opposing side’s London team. His reputation for sharp wit and formidable interrogation skills preceded him. This session was a true test of my legal knowledge, ethical boundaries, and personal resilience.

Reflecting on the experience, the anticipation proved to be much more daunting than the actual experienced event, filled with worries such as “What if I mess up and my client loses millions?” or “What if I accidentally divulge confidential information and get sued?” These fears loomed large in the weeks leading up to the trial.

Key Takeaways from the Experience:

  • Preparation is Critical: Extensive preparation and a final review the night before the arbitration proved to be crucial. This groundwork equipped me to address complex questions confidently, congruently and accurately.
  • Familiarization of the ‘Arena’: Visiting the Fairmont Grand Hotel the day before the trial was vital for easing anxiety. As noted in the 2nd Edition of my book The MARVEL of Happiness, understanding your environment reduces fear—even things that might seem secondary to someone such as knowing the exact location and layout of the conference room helped me feel more prepared and at ease.
  • Resilience Under Pressure: Maintaining composure under intense scrutiny was essential. Additionally, a strong moral compass was crucial in navigating accusations and insinuations about one’s honesty and integrity during cross-examination.

The relief and sense of accomplishment that came after the session were profound.

This experience not only tested my professional capabilities but also promoted significant personal growth, teaching me invaluable lessons in resilience and ethical decision-making within high-pressure settings.

Your Turn

When was the last time you faced a truly challenging situation? What strategies did you employ to navigate it effectively? I look forward to hearing your stories and lessons learned.


P.S.: Details regarding the facts, venue, and parties have been modified to preserve confidentiality.

P.S.2: For more information on how to navigate challenging and fearful situations, check out my latest book mentioned above: The MARVEL of Happiness.

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