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GAR 100 - 5th Edition

Schellenberg Wittmer

05 March 2012

This Swiss pioneer continues to set the pace.

People in Who’s Who:
5
Pending cases as counsel:
32
Value of pending counsel work:
US$3 billion
Treaty cases:
0
Current arbitrator appointments:
45 (of which 30 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
7

Created in 2000 (through the merger of Schellenberg & Haissly in Zurich and Brunschwig Wittmer in Geneva), Schellenberg Wittmer married two firms that were already in synch, when it came to thinking about international arbitration. In Geneva, Laurent Lévy was building a team focused explicitly on the area, one he hoped would have sufficient horsepower to compete for non-Swiss work (reasoning it could help to introduce new clients to the firm). He would soon recruit Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler to pursue that vision.

Meanwhile in Zurich, Georg von Segesser and some of his senior colleagues including Martin Bernet and Alexander Jolles were also thinking that diversity and more international work were the way to go.

The result – when the two firms joined – was a team with unusual equipoise between Zurich and Geneva, and a similar mind-set in both, and that in particular would offer foreign-trained lawyers a level career playing-field. It also made skill in oral advocacy one of the job requirements - not a skillset Swiss firms traditionally sought.

Nowadays Lévy and Kaufmann-Kohler are successful independent arbitrators at their own shop and some of the partners in Zurich are more often to be found on the arbitrator side of the hearing room but otherwise the essence of the practice is the same. Though much bigger, it’s still one of the few places in Switzerland that you can find common-law trained advocates and counsel who do nothing but arbitration.

As for the “plan” to compete internationally, well, members of the practice have recently taken part in cases governed by English, Polish, Czech, UAE, Thai, Filipino and Cameroonian law, none of which were heard in Switzerland. So … apparently it worked.

The practice also recently began minting new partners – taking it into its third generation. (See recent events for more.)

Away from case work, senior members are active in the wider life of the arbitral community. At home, Elliott Geisinger has been a vice president of the Swiss Arbitration Association since January 2010, which was when Manuel Liatowitsch, one of the more recent younger partners, was elected a co-chair of ASA’s below 40 group.

Nathalie Voser, meanwhile, spent much of her time between 2009 and autumn 2011 drafting and presenting the new ICC arbitration rules. She was an active member of the drafting subcommittee, and took particular responsibility for the emergency arbitrator rules.

Anne Véronique Schlaepfer chairs the committee that oversees arbitral proceedings taking place under the Swiss rules of arbitration and is a vice chair of the IBA’s arbitration committee.

Network

As described above, the firm is one of the few Swiss arbitration practices regarded as leading in both the French and German speaking parts of the country with offices in Zurich and Geneva.

Who uses it?

Bayer, Ceylan, GE, and Orange/France Telecom to name but a few. The firm says that last year it saw more construction and engineering disputes, as well as pharmaceutical cases.

Track record

The team has had a string of successes in defending awards in setting aside proceedings before the Swiss Supreme Court: Elliott E Geisinger defended a €220 million award in favour of Orange/France Telecom, and Andrea Mondini defended an ICC award in favour of US company Hasbro. The team (Geisinger in particular again) was also retained to defend a very-public US$2.2 billion award in favour of Sonatrach against set-aside proceedings; that case ultimately settled after the exchange of written submissions, apparently on very favourable terms for Sonatrach.

Otherwise, the firm enjoyed a big win in 2009 when it obtained US$100 million on behalf of Watson Pharmaceuticals. A tribunal ruled the company could continue selling iron-deficiency treatment drug Ferrlecit in the US for the remainder of the year. The client’s share price jumped 1.4 per cent on the news.

Meanwhile, Georg von Segesser has chaired a number of high-profile cases, including one US$ 1.7 billion LCIA matter.

Recent events

The firm added to its number of foreign qualified lawyers – two US lawyers, one qualified in England and Wales, and one Spanish speaker who is admitted to the French Bar.

In Zurich, Christopher Boog and Philipp Groz were promoted to partner, as was Philippe Bärtsch in Geneva.

Associate Dorothee Schramm left the firm for Sidley Austin, joining ex-Schellenberg partner David Roney, who moved there last year.

Nathalie Voser has been appointed to the Board of the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce for the period of 2012-2014. Elliott Geisinger joined the working group for the Swiss initiative for transparency in arbitration costs, which was launched by the Swiss Arbitration Association last year.

 

 

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