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GAR 100 - 4th Edition

Baker & McKenzie

18 February 2011

In terms of global reach, there are few practices on a par with Baker & McKenzie. Exactly how many of its lawyers work regularly on international arbitration remains hard to pin down – the firm thinks about 200, in 74 locations – but there’s no doubting the relevance of its network to clients with a cross-border dispute.

People in Who’s Who:
3
Pending cases as counsel:
126
Value of pending counsel work:
US$40 billion
Treaty cases:
6
Current arbitrator appointments:
29 (of which 17 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
15

In the 1980s and 1990s, several of the firm’s members acted for companies with claims against Iran at the Iran-US Claims Tribunal. From that has grown a core team that can handle investment treaty and commercial disputes, with partners in particular found in Toronto (J Brian Casey), New York (Grant Hanessian), Caracas (Eugenio Hernández-Breton) and London (Edward Poulton). On the commercial side, clients are often from the oil and gas, engineering or construction sectors. Vladimir Khvalei, a partner in Moscow, is a vice chairman of the ICC court; Joaquim T Muniz chairs the arbitration commission of the Rio de Janeiro Bar, and Larry Newman has been chairman of the CPR arbitration commission since 1997.

When GAR journalists are trying to track down details of a case in lesser-known jurisdictions, a first port of call is often the local Baker & McKenzie team.

Network

The firm reorganised the international arbitration management group in 2009 – seeking to improve coordination between offices. There’s now a steering committee, chaired by Grant Hanessian (in New York) and Guenter Pickrahn (in Frankfurt). Nancy Thevenin, a former deputy director of the ICC for North America, is its global coordinator. Collectively, the group is fluent in more than 20 languages – including Haitian, Creole, Kazakh and Vietnamese.

Big wins

In 2009, lawyers from Baker & McKenzie’s Stockholm and Moscow offices succeeded in a counterclaim against Lukoil, Russia’s largest oil producer, in an SCC arbitration over share acquisition rights in joint ventures in Kazakhstan. The parties later settled on different terms.

Meanwhile Martin Hrodek in Prague led a team that achieved an US$85 million award for Czech bank CBOS in an ICC arbitration against the Czech Republic. It was one of the first known arbitrations to consider the application of state aid laws to a bank bailout.
The firm also defended Uzbekistan, with success, in an arbitration brought by a Swiss wheat trader. The Paris and London offices – and a lawyer on the ground in Tashkent – secured a PCA award that drew a distinction between “investments” in a country and one-off transactions with them.

Other wins have been obtained for the state of Papua New Guinea, a major Chinese airline, and a consortium that built a well-known, new metro-transport systems.

Recent events

In Asia, the firm lost two long-standing regional heads of its international arbitration practice in 2010: Andrew Aglionby left the Hong Kong office after 17 years with the firm; and in Singapore, Tan Chuan Thye moved to local firm Stanford Law after five years as Baker & McKenzie’s practice head in the city state.

The group strengthened its Asia practice with June Yeum in its New York office. In Paris, it welcomed Eric Borysewicz from France’s Courtois Lebel, who brought with him two associates and a legal adviser. The promotions to the partnership were mainly in Europe, including Edward Poulton (London), Mathias Wittinghofer and Ragnar Harbst (Frankfurt), José Ramón Casado (Madrid), Carles Prat (Barcelona), Robert van Agteren (Amsterdam) and Stefan Riegler (Vienna), as well as Gunduz Karimov in Baku, Joaquim T Muniz in Rio de Janeiro, and John Basinger in New York.

Grant Hanessian, Lawrence Newman and David Zaslowsky are founding members of the New York International Arbitration Club, which meets at Baker & McKenzie’s office in the city – Newman is the club’s current chair. In other news, Hanessian edited a first volume on awards issued by the AAA-ICDR, and Newman co-authored Take the Witness: Cross-Examination in International Arbitration (Juris) with Ben Sheppard Jr (director of the AA White Dispute Resolution Centre at the University of Houston Law Centre).

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