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GAR 100 - 5th Edition

DLA Piper

05 March 2012

DLA Piper achieved two big wins in 2011 and added a disputes team in Miami with an eye on more work from Latin America

People in Who’s Who:
Pending cases as counsel:
Value of pending counsel work:
US$12 billion
Treaty cases:
Current arbitrator appointments:
7 (of which 7 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:

The firm has had various guises over the years but dates back to 1821. The DLA brand was created at the turn of the millennium in the UK, while DLA Piper – the incarnation we know today – is the product of various mergers with US law firms in the second part of the 2000s.

The result of these mergers and a more general relentless expansion is the world’s third-largest law firm, with boots on the ground nearly everywhere and financial results that are the envy of many.

That kind of business model generates plenty of scope for cross-border disputes work, and the firm has indeed developed sizeable arbitration teams in London, New York and Hong Kong, among other places.

The current global practice group began to take shape in 2001 with the arrival of Matthew Saunders, who was hired with a mandate to develop a wider group in the area. Soon after, Claudia Salomon joined the New York office from Squire Sanders & Dempsey to co-chair the international arbitration group alongside Saunders in London and Justyn Jagger in Singapore.

Since then, the team has expanded as the firm has taken over new operations, and through its own lateral hires aimed at gaps in its coverage. One of those saw it recruit a former Debevoise & Plimpton high-flyer, Michael Ostrove, in France to help deal with an increase in work under ICC rules.

The group enjoyed a whole new level of visibility in 2010 when it became adviser to the Russian side in arbitrations that flowed from the Ukraine-Russia gas wars of 2008 and 2009. Former clients speak highly of the team’s approach. One told GAR a year ago, “You wouldn’t want this bunch of street fighters against you.”


The firm’s network is almost too big to cover here. In arbitration terms, the more important offices are London, Paris, New York, Singapore and Dubai – but it’s in a whole lot of other places too.

Who uses it?

As mentioned, the firm has had regular business from Russian gas suppliers – especially RosUkrEnergo.

It also leveraged work in 2003 for the Indian government on a BIT case (the Dahbol dispute) into a treaty-practice. The government of Georgia is now one of its clients (in several matters), as is the Kingdom of Thailand, Czech Republic and the Sultanate of Oman in the first-ever arbitration brought under the US-Oman Free Trade Agreement.

It’s also popular with any client that prefers its lawyers to be locally based rather than “fly in, fly out”. Energy and telecoms firms can be particularly hot on this.

Track record

The firm recently won US$2.6 billion and US$500 million for RosUkrEnergo.

The former resulted from Rosukrenergo v NAK Naftogaz, which concerned ownership of gas that was held in storage in Ukraine and allegedly acquired by the Tymoshenko regime. DLA fielded a team from Moscow, London, Kiev and Stockholm. The case spawned litigation in the courts of Ukraine and then New York.

The other award concluded Rosukrenergo v Emfesz, which concerned the supply of gas to Hungary. That was worked on by DLA lawyers from London, Moscow, Kiev, Warsaw and Budapest, assisted by members of Swedish firm Setterwalls.

Recent events

2011 saw Matthew Saunders take on the additional role of head of development of DLA Piper’s international dispute resolution practice – on top of co-chair of international arbitration group and head of the commercial litigation practice in London.

The firm added an international disputes team in Miami in the form of Pedro Martinez-Fraga, Ryan Reetz (at partner level) and Gustavo Lamelas, and Harout Samra. They joined the arbitration group in March from Squire Sanders & Dempsey.

Soon after, DLA reached an agreement with Venezuelan law firm InterJuris Abogados SC to establish an office in Caracas.

In May, JP Duffy, Yaroslav Moshennikov, Knud Jacob Knudsen and Sammy Fang made partner, in New York, Beijing and Oslo respectively.

June 2011 saw the return of Senator George Mitchell to DLA Piper as chairman emeritus. Mitchell was the former US special envoy for Middle East peace under the Obama administration and former Senate Majority Leader. He will play a leadership role, as well as advising on significant arbitration and mediation projects.

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