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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

K&L Gates

18 February 2016

The US firm helped Albania obtain an impressive settlement and notched another victory for Poland at ICSID

People in Who’s Who Legal: 3
Pending cases as counsel: 94+
Value of pending counsel work: US$22 billion
Treaty cases: 6
Current arbitrator appointments: 44 (of which 20 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator: 11

K&L Gates is the product of a 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 in Texas, North Carolina and Chicago. In 2013, the firm merged again, with Australia’s Middletons – making it the largest US firm in the Asia-Pacific region.

The arbitration practice of the legacy firms focused on construction and insurance matters but the merged practice widened its scope with some high-profile lateral hires, including former Eversheds partner Louis Degos and Raja Bose in Singapore, who came on board after 10 years at Watson Farley & Williams to head the Asia practice.

Investment arbitration specialist Sabine Konrad –was hired as part of this wave and spent three years at the firm, but is now with McDermott Will & Emery.

K&L Gates’ practice expanded further with the acquisition of Hogan & Hartson’s Warsaw office ahead of the firm’s merger with Lovells (including a strong team of arbitration specialists led by Maciej Jamka), and the addition of a team from Clifford Chance in Tokyo. The Middletons merger also provided dispute resolution lawyers in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.

With further new arrivals, the practice now comprises more than 100 lawyers.

Network

Since it first featured the in the GAR 100 in 2010, the firm has opened 15 new offices, taking its global total to 48. The arbitration practice has boots on the ground in 20 cities around the world, including, most recently, Houston.

Who uses it?

Poland, Germany and the Netherlands have been government clients on investment treaty matters, while Spain and France have turned to it for arbitration-related court work concerning liability for a massive oil spill. The firm has also advised ICSID claimants, including German airport operator Fraport, against the Philippines.

In the commercial sphere, multinationals that have used the firm include Alcoa, Deere & Company, DuPont, Duke Energy, Fujifilm America, Goldman Sachs, Honeywell International, TeliaSonera, Siemens and World Wrestling Entertainment.

Other past clients include 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 Twenty20 cricket tournament.

Track record

In 2009, K&L Gates helped Belgium’s Transcor Astra Group win 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 US court denied the challenge, and a team of K&L Gates lawyers led by Gerald Novack and Beth Petronio finally helped Astra secure a settlement of US$820 million with Petrobras in 2012.

In the same year, Jennifer Coughlin in the Anchorage office helped the US state of Alaska secure a US$245 million award against BP in compensation for delayed oil production as a result of two oil spills in the North Slope region.

The firm led Poland to victory in an ICSID case in 2014 in which the claimants were two US investors in a blood plasma laboratory. The tribunal found in the state’s favour on the merits and awarded legal fees and costs.

Recent events

In 2015, the firm helped US border security company Rapiscan settle a US$359 million ICC claim against Albania over a concession to tackle the problem of smuggling and people trafficking from the country. The settlement was embodied in a new Albanian law.

A K&L Gates team also helped Poland defend a US$185 million ICSID claim brought by US investors who accused the authorities of driving their vegetable oil business into bankruptcy. The tribunal ordered the claimants to pay almost US$3 million towards the state’s costs.

The firm is understood to be acting for a client in a potential US$4 billion BIT case in the extractive industries sector and in an LCIA dispute where the assets in dispute are worth around US$2 billion.

Joanna Łagowska, the former head of the infrastructure and engineering disputes team at Dentons, joined as a partner in the Warsaw office and the London team added partner John Gilbert from Pinsent Masons at the start of 2016.

In Miami, construction specialist Frank Bigelis joined as of counsel from US firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.

Frank Schweitzer left the DC office to join White & Case.

Nazanin Aleyaseen was promoted to partner in Dubai.

Client comment

Jeffery Chow, general legal manager at Keppel Offshore & Marine Ltd, says that “because the team was properly led and focused, there was no time and effort wasted on getting one up on the other firm.” He says Raja Bose “fully understands our company philosophy and approach on legal issues and works well with our organisation.”

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