No other IA practice can really match King & Spalding’s growth in the past 10 years
- People in Who’s Who:
- Pending cases as counsel:
- Value of pending counsel work:
- US$ 66 billion
- Treaty cases:
- Current arbitrator appointments:
- 34 (of which 14 is as sole or chair)
- No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
King & Spalding was founded in 1885 in Atlanta and opened an office in Houston in 1995 to serve energy clients.
Although that laid the foundations for an international arbitration practice, things only really got going in 2000 with the hire of Doak Bishop, who arrived in the Houston office with a single arbitration case.
Bishop hired Craig Miles – now a name in his own right – and between them the pair carved a niche in investment arbitration, spending around 50 per cent of their billable hours working in the area.
Helped by global events such as the Argentine financial crisis, their caseload expanded and in 2003 they hired Argentine lawyer Roberto Aguirre Luzi and Wade Coriell, now both partners. Around this time, the group began to attract attention with a series of wins in ICSID cases against Argentina. The practice has won some of the largest ICSID awards to date.
Over time, members of the firm’s other offices have been drawn into the practice. In 2004, Ed Kehoe from the New York office began to play an active role in arbitration work and a few years later, several partners in Atlanta followed his lead. Kehoe is today a co-chair of the practice.
Meanwhile, the group also embarked on a series of significant lateral hires. The first saw it put down roots in Europe in the form of Ken Fleuriet, formerly of Shearman & Sterling, who was hired in Paris.
Then, when Margrete Stevens, acting lead counsel at ICSID, decided to move, she was persuaded to join King & Spalding in Washington, DC.
In 2008, the practice bolted on a duo in Houston who specialised in commercial arbitration – John Bowman and Jennifer Price – helping to fill a perceived gap in the practice’s skill set.
It took a similar step a year later in Paris, adding the ready-made and highly respected team of Eric Schwartz and James Castello, formerly of Dewey & LeBoeuf and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, both of whom have extensive ICC and UNCITRAL experience.
More recently, it has branched into Asia, doing so on the back of another lateral, John Savage – arguably the region’s best known international arbitration practitioner (formerly of Shearman & Sterling) – and two partners in New York: respected Mexican trade lawyer Guillermo Aguilar-Alvarez and Caline Mouawad (who was promoted a year after joining from Salans).
It’s just announced its first partner in Germany too (more on him in a moment).
The upshot is, in 12 years, the practice has gone from one partner with one case to upwards of 50 lawyers around the world working nearly exclusively on arbitration. It is regularly found high up in surveys on the biggest international arbitration cases and various directories now put it in the top rung for firms from the US.
The important offices for international arbitration are now Houston, Atlanta, New York, Washington, DC, Paris, Singapore, London and Frankfurt.
Who uses it?
Amazingly, Ukraine, Turkey and Senegal. Yes, the scourge of Argentina these days represents sovereigns too. More seriously, the firm has an excellent following for all types of arbitration now. Some of its other clients are Ascom, Azurix, Chevron (in some of its biggest matters), ConocoPhillips, Exterran, European Foods, Impregilo, Fraport, Murphy Oil, Group Marsans and the Renco Group.
Although some of the awards have since been annulled or rendered less legitimate by ad hoc committees, the firm can be proud of winning some of the largest payouts ever seen in ICSID cases. Its wins against Argentina include US$185 million for Azurix, US$175 million for Sempra, US$133 million for CMS and US$106 million for Enron. The firm also helped a pair of hotel developers win US$133 million against Egypt. The Sempra and Enron awards were annulled in 2010 but the claims have since been resubmitted.
The firm has also recorded its own “win” in the annulment system – in a case against the Philippines. In late 2010, it helped to persuade an annulment committee to cancel an award unfavourable to Fraport, an airport building consortium. Fraport can now resurrect a US$400million claim over a terminal at Manila Airport.
King & Spalding also obtained a significant ruling for Chevron in the context of its long-running litigation over liability for a clean-up in the Ecuadorean Amazon. The firm secured an interim measures order from an arbitral panel at The Hague requiring Ecuador to take “all necessary steps” to prevent enforcement of a local court judgment (for US$18 billion) against Chevron. The panel declared the interim measures final in January 2012.
The lateral hires and promotions have continued. In 2011, the firm added Tom Sprange, formerly of Steptoe & Johnson, in London, giving it a presence in the UK again. It also promoted Caline Mouawad to partner in New York.
In January 2012, it announced that Jan Schaefer had joined as a partner from Allen & Overy. Schaefer was one of the lawyers selected for GAR’s new “45 under 45” in 2011.
The Paris office also expanded at the associate level. One of two new arrivals (the other was a relocation) was John Gaffney, whose voice will be familiar to participants in OGEMD.
On the work front, the practice saw its case load climb from 35 cases a year ago to 54 at the time of writing. Two came from sovereign states, bringing its roster of state clients to three. How times have changed.