Acting in a landmark case before the UK Supreme Court
|People in Who's Who Legal||3|
|People in Future Leaders||1|
|Pending cases as counsel||105|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$21 billion+|
|Third-party funded cases||5+|
|Current arbitrator appointments||11 (5 as chair or sole)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||5|
K&L Gates is the product of a complicated series of mergers: East Coast firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart absorbed UK practice Nicholson Graham & Jones in 2005, then fused with Seattle-based firm Preston Gates & Ellis two years later, before going on to merge with three other firms in Texas, North Carolina and Chicago. In 2013, the firm merged again, with Australia’s Middletons – making it the largest US firm in the Asia-Pacific region.
The arbitration practice of the legacy firms focused on construction and insurance matters but the merged practice widened its scope with some high-profile lateral hires, including former Eversheds partner Louis Degos; and Raja Bose in Singapore, who came on board after 10 years at Watson Farley & Williams to head the Asia practice.
K&L Gates’ practice expanded further with the acquisition of Hogan & Hartson’s Warsaw office ahead of that firm’s merger with Lovells (including a strong team of arbitration specialists led by Maciej Jamka), and the addition of a team from Clifford Chance in Tokyo. The Middletons merger also provided dispute resolution lawyers in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.
The practice now comprises more than 100 lawyers.
The arbitration practice has people in 22 offices – including London, Paris, Warsaw, Milan, Frankfurt, Dubai, Doha, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Perth and Taipei. There are boots on the ground in seven US cities including New York, Miami and Houston. The wider firm has 46 offices across five continents.
Who uses it?
Poland, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands have been government clients on investment treaty matters, while Spain and France have turned to it for arbitration-related court work concerning liability for a massive oil spill. The firm has also advised ICSID claimants including German airport operator Fraport against the Philippines.
In the commercial sphere, multinationals that have used the firm include Alcoa; Astra Oil; Deere & Company; DuPont; Duke Energy; Fujifilm America; Goldman Sachs; Honeywell International; TeliaSonera; Siemens; Vodafone; Orange; and World Wrestling Entertainment.
Other clients include Murphy Oil in an insurance coverage dispute arising out of damage by Hurricane Katrina; Warner Bros; and the West Indies Cricket Board in a fast-track LCIA arbitration with Digicel relating to a Twenty20 cricket tournament.
There have been some good results for the firm’s client Poland at ICSID. In 2015, it won the dismissal of a US$185 million claim by US investors who accused Polish authorities of driving their vegetable oil business into bankruptcy – also obtaining nearly US$3 million towards the state’s costs. The year before, it saw off a US$35 million claim over the failed development of a blood plasma laboratory.
On the investor side, it helped US border security company Rapiscan settle a US$359 million ICC claim against Albania in 2015, over a concession to tackle the problem of smuggling and people trafficking. The settlement was embodied in Albanian legislation.
In 2009, K&L Gates helped Belgium’s Transcor Astra Group win US$640 million against the US arm of Brazil’s Petrobras in a dispute over put options – and went on to get the award enforced in a US court. Astra eventually agreed a US$820 million settlement with Petrobras in 2012.
In the same year, Jennifer Coughlin in the Anchorage office helped the US state of Alaska secure a US$245 million award against BP in compensation for delayed oil production as a result of two oil spills in the North Slope region.
Degos was also more recently involved in a potentially groundbreaking decision by a Paris court which held that a non-party to an arbitration could partially challenge the enforcement of a foreign award to preserve its rights of due process and access to justice.
K&L Gates is representing US company Halliburton in an appeal to the UK Supreme Court on whether an arbitrator should have disclosed his involvement in overlapping insurance cases relating to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
A tribunal rejected Halliburton’s attempts to recover some US$100 million from the UK’s Chubb Insurance, with the US company unsuccessfully applying to set that award aside on grounds of bias before the Commercial Court and Court of Appeal in London.
In the pending Supreme Court appeal, the ICC International Court of Arbitration, LCIA and Chartered Institute of Arbitrators have all stated an intention to intervene, in order to add clarity to the law in light of the importance of the issues at hand.
The firm picked up a fresh instruction from Italy to defend it against an Energy Charter Treaty claim filed by British energy company relating to an oil field lying less than 12 nautical miles from Italy’s Adriatic coast.
The firm continues to act for a subsidiary of China’s national oil company in a US$50 million New York-seated ICDR arbitration in relation to a joint operating agreement for an Indonesian oil block.
Jonathan Sutcliffe joined the firm in Dubai from Baker Botts, bringing experience in international commercial arbitration and litigation as well as investor-state disputes. Another Dubai-based partner, Monique O’Donoghue, left the firm to return to Covington & Burling.
There were also promotions to the partnership for Michael Thomas Melber in Berlin, Martin King in London, Stefano Bardella in Milan and Nick Williams in Singapore.
In-house counsel for a client that used the firm for an international arbitration that was “key to the company’s business” says that a team featuring London partners John Magnin, Peter Morton and associate Ben McKinnon did an “excellent job.” He continues that he was “impressed with the arguments they came up with to substantiate our position” and that they “made my life as the in-house counsel on this case a lot easier.”
A well-known Central European oil refiner has been using the firm’s Warsaw office for an US$80 million dispute and says the team “provides a first-class service within budget and in a timely manner.” Partner Maciej Jamka has great knowledge and experience, as well as an ability to stay one step ahead of opposing counsel. Associate Maciej Antoniak is also praised as “proactive”.