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GAR 100 - 5th Edition

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

05 March 2012

A significant lateral hire has helped this well-known US firm enter the GAR 100

Pending cases as counsel:
12
Value of pending counsel work:
US$6.7 billion
Treaty cases:
0
Current arbitrator appointments:
2 (of which 0 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
1

The firm opened its first office in Texas in 1945, serving the oil and gas industry. Although it has worked regularly on international arbitrations over the years, its credibility increased markedly last year when it acquired the entire Geneva office of the former Hogan & Hartson.

The centrepiece of the acquisition was Charles Adams, a partner with more than 250 arbitrations under his belt, accumulated over 38 years in DC, Paris and Geneva. One leading arbitrator confided to GAR in 2009 that Adams was the most persuasive advocate he’d seen in recent times.

Network

The firm has 16 international offices including bases in Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Geneva, London and Moscow, on top of its network in the US. A South East Asian office is under consideration and would, if embarked on, have a dispute resolution focus.

For the international arbitration practice, the key cities are Geneva and London, where partner Justin Williams and his team regularly assist on English law matters.

Who uses it?

The Alstom Group is a long-time client – Adams and his team have conducted more than two dozen proceedings for it over the past 15 years. EADS and its Airbus affiliate, Siemens, US hospitality group Carlson and Swedish food packaging company Tetra Pak have also all used it repeatedly.

The team also seems adept at handling last-minute instructions. Elektrim Finance instructed it late on during one part of its long-running dispute with Vivendi and Deutsche Telekom over control of a Polish telephone company. It gave the team a mere four weeks to prepare for a principal merits hearing.

Similarly, VeriSign retained it with only two weeks to go before AAA/ICDR hearings against RealNetworks.

The Canadian province of British Columbia has also instructed it in connection with an LCIA claim about the contentious Softwood Lumber Agreement between Canada and the US.

Track record

Among other things, Charles Adams and his group are responsible for one particularly spectacular enforcement action. They enforced an award won by the Eurotrain Consortium against Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation by arresting and impounding the then-largest container ship in the world.

They also steered one of the longest-running investment cases against Poland to a conclusion after taking over the case at the quantum phase. The case eventually settled for less than one-tenth of the €14 billion initially claimed.

The group has also enjoyed a good 2011. Partners Adams and Vanessa Liborio Garrido de Sousa scored a “major success” (their words) for French engineering and construction company Colas in the ICC claim begun by the Mauritius Port Authority. The tribunal decided the claim was time-barred and unanimously dismissed the whole thing.

In addition, the firm was successful in having two claims against Alstom withdrawn at an early stage.

Recent events

In Geneva the firm promoted associate Liborio Garrido de Sousa and counsel Matthew Bate to partner. Matthew Parish, however, left the firm to join Holman Fenwick Willan as a partner.

Adams, together with Liborio Garrido de Sousa, received a new instruction to represent a Saudi engineering firm in a matter concerning EPC contracts in the petrochemical field.

He and one of his former colleagues from Hogan Lovells, Dennis Tracey, are also now representing a US university, The New School, in a dispute arising out of the termination of a licence agreement to run the Paris campus of the Parsons School of Design. An interim award in favour of The New School has recently given rise to ancillary litigation in the French courts.

New York partner Steven Pesner, together with lawyers in London, is representing Russia’s largest mobile telephone operator, VimpelCom, in its dispute with Altimo.

Client comment

Philip Ray, senior counsel at Siemens, praises the firm’s “willingness to be there for you and brainstorm, even if not representing you on a matter” and the “extraordinary value” of its service.

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