The now global team has swapped its point-person in Asia
- People in Who’s Who:
- Pending cases as counsel:
- Value of pending counsel work:
- US$8 billion
- Treaty cases:
- Current arbitrator appointments:
- 27 (of which 14 is as sole or chair)
- No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
Fulbright & Jaworski’s international arbitration practice recently celebrated its 15th anniversary.
As such, it was one of the first US firms to treat the practice as a specialist field in its own right. The early embrace owes much to the foresight of C Mark Baker, founder and co-head of the group.
Between 2002 and 2006, the group worked for UEGA – a joint venture between Petrobras and El Paso – on a dispute that eventually became the leading case on Brazil’s arbitration law (COPEL v UEGA); Mark Baker appeared before a Brazilian judge to argue aspects of the case.
In 2004, the team handled the bankruptcy of Yukos before the Texan courts, leading to an instruction on one of the largest arbitrations of that period – Yukos v Sibneft – a claim for US$28 billion. The practice also scored success early in investment arbitration for Duke Energy in cases against Ecuador and Peru.
After part of the original Houston team defected, the Fulbright group rebuilt with lateral hires (particularly at senior associate level) in the US and in Europe, notably adding David Howell – who had led Baker McKenzie’s practice in London and Asia for many years – as partner in London.
The group has also branched into Asia and the Middle East, poaching Philip Punwar, a London barrister who created the international arbitration group at Al Tamimi & Company in Dubai, and relocating Jonathan Sutcliffe, following stints in London and Houston to Dubai.
The senior members of the group – Howell, Baker, and now Richard Hill (now back from Hong Kong) – are now in demand as arbitrators. Baker is a vigorous contributor to a number of arbitral institutions and committees, particularly those that create rules and best practice.
Although the case numbers at Fulbright & Jaworski are not at present as high as at some practices right now, it is worth noting that only four other firms have more members selected for the International Who’s Who of Commercial Arbitration.
The international arbitration group’s main locations are Houston, London, Dubai and Hong Kong, but there are people attached to the practice in Beijing, Riyadh, Washington and New York too.
Who uses it?
We don’t know; the group refuses to disclose current client names. But it’s understood they include an airship manufacturer and a global power boiler manufacturer. In the past, Yukos companies and Duke Energy have been clients.
In the case for the airship manufacturer, Richard Hill in Hong Kong (at the time) obtained a full dismissal and 90 per cent of the client’s legal costs. He was asked to take the case over mid-stream and only had three weeks to prepare.
Richard Hill returned to London from Hong Kong. He’s been replaced in Asia by James Rogers, a senior associate who joined the practice a few years ago from Herbert Smith.
Meanwhile, the group is entering the second phase of a secondment programme between the US and Dubai offices and has just sent out its second arbitration associate to the Middle East. The Dubai office has also recently added an additional arbitration associate, and both the London and US parts of the group are in recruiting mode, they report.
Spanish national Aníbal Sabater, a partner in the Houston office, was included in GAR’s “45 under 45” for 2011.
On the work front, the team was gratified (if frustrated) to receive 49 requests for counsel in 2011 that they were unable to accept owing to conflicts. Richard Hill, meanwhile, has been appointed co-arbitrator in what’s believed to be Hong Kong’s largest current commercial case (a dispute between 15 parties over 18 finance contracts – worth up to US$600 million).