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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Norton Rose Fulbright

10 March 2017

The firm announced a tie-up with Chadbourne & Parke in early 2017

People in Who’s Who Legal 7
Pending cases as counsel 148
Value of pending counsel work US$10.9 billion
Current arbitrator appointments 16 (of which 12 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 11

The product of a series of mergers that began in 2009, this practice brings together former lawyers from Norton Rose, Fulbright & Jaworski, Ogilvy Renault and Chadbourne & Parke (which all used to feature in the GAR 100 or GAR 30 in their own right) under global co-heads Pierre Bienvenu in Montreal and Mark Baker in Houston.

Of the main merger partners, Norton Rose was perhaps less well known for international arbitration, though its deep roots in shipping, energy and construction had brought it success in the field since the 1990s and it counted leading UK arbitrator Michael Lee among its alumni.

Its merger with Ogilvy Renault, Canada’s preeminent arbitration practice, in 2009 took things to a new level, adding Bienvenu and other specialists who had learned the trade from leading arbitrator Yves Fortier QC (though Fortier himself departed for independent practice to avoid conflicts of interest).

The merger with Fulbright & Jaworski in 2013 completed the development of an international arbitration supergroup. Fulbright was among the first US firms to gain a name in the field, having worked on cases such as Sibneft v Yukos (once the largest arbitration in the world), and the first to treat it as a practice area in its own right. It brought Baker plus other big names such as Kevin O’Gorman and Deborah Ruff with it.

Along the way, another Canadian firm, Macleod Dixon, was added to the mix in 2012, bringing capability in Latin America in particular.

In February 2017, Norton Rose Fulbright revealed plans to combine with another global law firm, Chadbourne & Parke. That firm has also previously featured in the GAR 100, though some of the most visible members of the arbitration group had already left before the merger was announced, including a trio of partners in New York who moved to Cooley. The remaining Chadbourne team includes partner Julissa Reynoso, a former US ambassador to Uruguay; and CIS disputes specialist Irina Tymczyszyn, who joined in 2016 from Bryan Cave.

Network

The group is most concentrated in London, Houston, Montreal, Hong Kong and Singapore, but it has people in numerous other offices across Europe, the US, Canada, Asia, Australia and South Africa. The Macleod Dixon merger brought an office in Caracas.

Following the merger with Chadbourne, the firm as a whole will have 58 offices in 32 countries.

Who uses it?

Clients include a lot of Canadian blue-chips and mining companies, City of London financial institutions, construction firms, shipyards, energy businesses, and oil and gas service providers.

Some names with which members of the practice have been associated include AbitibiBowater, Bombardier, BP, Bank of Nova Scotia, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Nestlé, Foster Wheeler, Norsk Hydro, BHP Billiton, ConocoPhillips, WADA, Canadian-Pacific Railways and Stonewall Resources.

Track record

One of the group’s most eye-catching recent results came in 2015, when it helped Israeli state-owned Israel Electric Corporation win US$1.7 billion in a politically charged ICC claim against two Egyptian state entities over the termination of a gas supply agreement in the wake of the Arab Spring. 

It defended a US$770 million investment treaty award in favour of Canadian mining company Gold Reserve against Venezuela in the French and US courts. Venezuela eventually agreed to pay the award in full under a deal that would allow the investor to continue operating in the country.

Norton Rose Fulbright’s various merger partners each bring their own reel of highlights. In Ogilvy Renault’s case, the team secured one of the largest payments so far under NAFTA (a US$130 million settlement for AbitibiBowater, ending a claim against Canada) and a US$85 million award against Hungary at ICSID in 2005 (one of the largest of its time).

In an ICSID case in 2012, the Macleod Dixon team helped the US’s Exterran Holdings agree to a US$442 million settlement with Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, in compensation for nationalised gas compression assets.

Recent events

Besides the settlement for Gold Reserve, the Hong Kong team helped win a US$12.6 million award for Australia’s Stonewall Mining against Chinese metals group Qixing over the sale of South African assets.

In Montreal, partner Martin Valasek is part of a team representing US forestry company Resolute Forest Products in a NAFTA claim against Canada. He also continues to act for Canadian oil company Bankers Petroleum in a tax dispute with Albania.

There were various departures in 2016. Houston-basedconsultant Lucy Greenwood left the firm after nearly 10 years to launch an independent arbitrator practice. In Frankfurt, Patricia Nacimiento moved to Herbert Smith Freehills in Frankfurt. Dubai-based partner Charlotte Bijlani left for Baker & McKenzie. Energy disputes partner Elisabeth Eljuri in Caracas – who headed Norton Rose’s Latin America practice – left to become chief legal counsel at Mexico’s first independent oil exploration company, Sierra Oil and Gas.

The London office welcomed partner Paul Stothard from King & Wood Mallesons.

The combination with Chadbourne is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2017, and will add some 11 partners who have acted in international arbitrations.

Client comment                                                      

Paul Attard, commercial manager at South Africa’s Bombela Civil Joint Venture, retained the firm for a dispute with the South African government over the Gautrain Rapid Rail Link. He says the firm demonstrated the “highest levels of professionalism” and has special praise for Tony Chappel and Daniel McConnell in Johannesburg, who showed an ability to grasp complex and technical matters.

Kieren Barry, group counsel at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, used the firm in an arbitration that was worth several million pounds. He says Norton Rose Fulbright’s “excellent preparation was decisive and gave a massive advantage”.