Hellwig Torggler and Gerold Zeiler set up Schönherr’s international arbitration practice in 2000. Although the Austrian firm was 40 years old and already a trusted adviser to local companies in commercial disputes, the two partners felt (they’ve since explained) there could be scope to tap into a wider market.
Having taken that decision to develop a practice group and to go with organic growth rather than lateral hires, they toured the firm’s network of foreign offices, selecting younger lawyers for training in the craft of international dispute resolution. Torggler has since moved on to become a full-time arbitrator, but Zeiler remains, and leads a cross-office practice group that spans Central and Eastern Europe.
Zeiler, for his part, is now a board member of the Austrian Arbitration Association and co-editor of a local arbitration yearbook.
The firm began expanding eastwards in 1996 and is now open in 11 cities across the region, from Poland and Ukraine and all across the Balkans.
Who uses it?
The firm is an obvious port of call for investors who hit problems in Central and Eastern Europe. Lately, Croatia and Romania have been hotspots. Clients with whom the firm is known to have worked include electricity group EVN in a claim against Bulgaria about warranties and tax. It was also retained by Republika Srpska to defend a billion-dollar claim by the CEZ conglomerate.
One client who used the firm for a recent matter was impressed by the team at Schönherr. “They were able to summarise complex data in a concise way, which made everyone believe that we would prevail in the arbitration,” they said, adding that the case settled before that point was reached. “Schönherr understood the business environment cost pressures in our industry, and were willing to discuss additional discounts – I would warmly recommend them to anyone,” they said.
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