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GAR 100 - 4th Edition

Schellenberg Wittmer

18 February 2011

Schellenberg Wittmer shook up the Swiss market for international arbitration some 14 years ago. At around that time, a partner on the Geneva side of what was not yet a merged firm – Laurent Lévy – persuaded his colleagues to build an arbitration that could pitch for truly international cases. He figured, he later explained, it would introduce new clients to the firm.

People in Who’s Who:
6
Pending cases as counsel:
29
Value of pending counsel work:
US$1 billion
Treaty cases:
0
Current arbitrator appointments:
60 (of which 37 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
10

Lévy recruited a second partner, Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler, and together they implemented the idea, creating a team that combined Swiss lawyers with others who were foreign-trained, and focusing more on oral advocacy than was the norm. Lévy and Kaufmann-Kohler now have their own arbitrators-only boutique, but the lawyers they groomed remain and by all accounts the practice goes from strength to strength. The firm took a quick survey recently and noted that it’s recently acted in cases applying English law, Polish law, Filipino law, and Cameroonian law, none of which was heard in Switzerland. The values established early on remain. Members are encouraged to sit as arbitrators, to pursue parallel academic careers, and to focus on advocacy.

Network

The current firm is the product of a merger in 2000 between Geneva and Zurich firms, both of which were known for dispute resolution. Unusually for a Swiss firm, the arbitration practice is equally strong in the French and German speaking parts of the country.

Big wins

In 2009, Schellenberg Wittmer won an award worth as much as US$100 million on behalf of Watson Pharmaceuticals. A tribunal ruled the company could continue selling Ferrlecit, an iron-deficiency treatment, in the US for the remainder of the year. Its share price jumped 42 cents on the news (1.4 per cent). In 2008, the drug generated US revenues of $148 million. More recently, it helped an engineering firm avoid serious reputational damage after it walked away from a tram project.

Recent events

In March, Anne-Véronique Schlaepfer was elected chair of the Swiss Chamber’s Court of Arbitration and Mediation. Later in the year, Manuel Liatowitsch was appointed co-chair of the Swiss Arbitration Association’s young practitioners’ group. In keeping with the firm’s avowed multinationalism, the Zurich office welcomed a US-trained German lawyer, while a French-qualified Spanish speaker joined the practice in Geneva. The practice, however, has said farewell to David Roney, its Canadian-trained partner. Roney, who founded of the Foundation for International Arbitration Advocacy, has joined the Geneva office of Sidley Austin.

Who's Who nominees:

  • Georg von Segesser, Anne Veronique Schlaepfer, Nathalie Voser, Martin Bernet & Elliott Geisinger

 

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