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GAR 100 - 5th Edition

K&L Gates

06 March 2012

The IA team grew in Germany, while in Paris a partner was elected to the influential Paris Bar Council

People in Who’s Who:
1
Pending cases as counsel:
60
Value of pending counsel work:
US$ 10 billion
Treaty cases:
13
Current arbitrator appointments:
22 (of which 7 is as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
7

According to one recent survey, K&L Gates is now the 11th-largest law firm worldwide in terms of size and 16th-largest in terms of revenue. In the past few years, it has taken significant steps towards building a commensurate international arbitration practice.

The firm is the product of a fairly complicated sequence of mergers: East Coast firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart absorbed UK practice Nicholson Graham & Jones in 2005, then fused with Seattle-based firm Preston Gates & Ellis two years later before going on to merge with three other firms from Texas, North Carolina and Chicago.

The arbitration practice of the legacy firms focused on construction and insurance matters to a large extent, but the merged practice significantly widened its scope in 2009 with some lateral hires. Sabine Konrad, an investment arbitration specialist and one of Germany’s appointees to the ICSID panel of arbitrators, joined from Dewey & LeBoeuf, followed soon after by Louis Degos, a former Eversheds partner better known for his commercial arbitration work. Meanwhile in Singapore, the well-respected local figure Raja Bose came on board after 10 years at Watson Farley & Williams to become head of the Asia practice.

The expansion continued in 2010 with the acquisition of Hogan & Hartson’s Warsaw office in the run-up to the Lovells merger (including a strong team of arbitration specialists led by Maciej Jamka), as well as new partner hires in Singapore and Hong Kong. In Tokyo, meanwhile, the firm was joined by a team from Clifford Chance including Atsushi Yamashita, who has worked on a number of international arbitrations.

The firm is proud of the relative youth of the arbitration group – many of its leading members are 45 or under. Despite that, several members of the group are established arbitrators; namely Raja Bose, Louis Degos, Maciej Jamka, Peter Kalis, Sabine Konrad, Ian Meredith and Rafal Morek.

Network

The firm boasts 40 offices on four continents, of which over half are in the US (most recently opening in Charleston). About 12 offices include arbitration “names to know” in all regions bar Latin America.

Who uses it?

Poland is a client and, even more impressively perhaps, Germany sought it out to defend the state’s first investment claim. It went to Frankfurt-based practitioner, Sabine Konrad (for a case started by Vattenfall).

The international arbitration group is also advising a Panamanian subsidiary of Taiwan’s state oil company CPC (in an ICSID claim against PDVSA); a group of German eco-tourism investors (in a claim against Costa Rica); airport services group Fraport AG in ICSID proceedings against the Philippines (as co-counsel with Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy); Murphy Oil (in an insurance coverage dispute arising out of damage by Hurricane Katrina); and the West Indies Cricket Board (in a fast-track LCIA arbitration with Digicel relating to the 20/20 cricket tournament).

Track record

In 2009, the firm helped Belgium’s Transcor Astra Group win a US$640 million against the US arm of Brazil’s Petrobras in a dispute over put options – and went on to get the award enforced in a US court. Petrobras had challenged enforcement on the grounds that Astra, though registered in the Netherlands, should be considered a US company because its CEO lives in California.

The German government, meanwhile, settled the ICSID dispute with Vattenfall to its satisfaction.

In another set of ICSID proceedings involving Sabine Konrad, an ad hoc annulment committee overturned an award denying jurisdiction over Fraport’s claims for expropriation of a concession to build and operate an airport terminal in Manila in December 2010. K&L Gates is now advising the German airport services company on a resubmitted claim for up to US$1 billion damages.

In Asia, the firm has been involved in the first case using the emergency arbitration procedure under the 2010 SIAC rules.

Recent events

Early 2012 saw the hire of German commercial arbitration specialist Johann von Pachelbel – a descendant of the composer of Pachelbel’s Canon – from Mannheimer Swartling. Pachelbel has joined the partnership in Frankfurt, bringing experience of the Scandinavian market.

In Paris, Louis Degos became the first international arbitration practitioner in decades to be elected to the Paris Bar Council.

In Washington, DC, investment arbitration specialist Lisa Richman, a member of the Fraport team, was promoted to of counsel. Sabine Konrad oversaw another successful edition of the Frankfurt Investment Arbitration Moot, which is sponsored by the firm and is famed for its historical moot problems (the next moot, in 2012, is based on an ancient Greek dispute).

As of 1 August 2011, the firm said it had around 60 international arbitrations on its books worth over US$10 billion, including around 13 treaty-based cases. Among other cases, it has recently been retained, once again, by Poland to defend an ICSID claim brought by US investors in a vegetable oil manufacturer.

The firm has also been involved in enforcement proceedings in England, India, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and in arbitration related court proceedings in Malaysia, New York and the Cayman Islands.

Client comment

The general counsel of a marine transportation group in Singapore used the local office for a relatively high-stakes dispute that settled pre-arbitration, and praised partner Mike Pollen’s “robustness of vision” and “ability to assess quickly the strengths and weaknesses of a party’s case”. In London, partner John Magnin gave “very good practical commercial advice” and was a “first-rate tactician” in a sensitive financial matter, said one respondent.

The vice president of a US company using members of the London and Paris team for an ICC dispute said he was impressed by their “keen understanding of our need for quality representation at a closely controlled cost.” Another client in the US said he got “first-rate representation” and value for money – “they knew the arbitration process and its subtle side” – while a company that retained the firm for a construction matter spoke of the lawyers “grasp of technical detail”.

A spokesperson for Poland’s Treasury Solicitors’ Office had no hesitation in recommending the firm for its “wide knowledge of international investment arbitration”. The state is using the firm’s Warsaw and Paris offices for BIT proceedings that remain in the early stages.

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