The firm lost practice head Ted Howes to Mayer Brown
|People in Who’s Who Legal:||1|
|Pending cases as counsel:||20|
|Value of pending counsel work:||US$13.5 billion|
|Current arbitrator appointments:||9 (of which 5 are as sole or chair)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator:||2|
McDermott was working on international arbitrations as far back as the 1990s, representing French, Korean and US clients at the ICC. But attempts to parlay itself from the IP field (where it’s very successful) into more of a mainstream international arbitration brand haven’t always run smoothly. A bolt-on team in London seemed poised for success, then splintered, and the practice fell out of the GAR 100 in 2011.
Since then, the firm has taken steps to return to the main arena with some good lateral hires that have restored know-how and credibility. In 2012, it welcomed English barrister Jacob Grierson in Paris (formerly of Jones Day and an authority on the new ICC rules). In the same year, it recruited a duo from K&L Gates who specialise in investment arbitration: Sabine Konrad (who works from Frankfurt and is one of the German government’s nominees to the ICSID panel of arbitrators); and Lisa Richman in Washington, DC. All three joined as partners.
In 2015, the firm said farewell to Ted Howes, the New York-based head of the international arbitration practice and a specialist in Chinese disputes. Howes left after 19 years to become a co-chair of Mayer Brown’s practice and the firm has yet to appoint a replacement. Despite Howes’ departure, the firm continues to work closely with the firm’s affiliated office in Shanghai, MWE China Law Offices led by John Huang – which offers local law advice (including representation before Chinese courts).
The main offices for arbitration are New York, DC (and to a lesser extent, Chicago, Miami and Boston), Paris and Frankfurt. There are also partners with international arbitration experience stationed in Düsseldorf and Rome.
Following the departure of Chinese specialist Howes, the firm continues to work closely with its affiliated office in Shanghai, MWE China Law Offices led by John Huang – which offers local law advice (including representation before Chinese courts).
Who uses it?
A lot of clients are from IP-rich fields – such as life-sciences and pharmaceuticals.
Some names it’s been associated with include Blackwater Security Consulting, private equity fund Patriarch Partners, German electrical-goods maker Schwabe, OPIC Karimun, a subsidiary of Taiwan’s Chinese Petroleum Company, and German airport operator Fraport in its second ICSID claim against the Philippines over a concession for an airport terminal.
In 2011, the firm helped Bionol Clearfield obtain a US$230 million award against Getty Petroleum Marketing in a dispute over an ethanol plant in Pennsylvania. The award included US$47 million in damages and over US$180 million in future damages. Enforcement required extensive post-award litigation, as the other side declared itself bankrupt, but McDermott lawyers got the award entered as a judgment in mid-2012.
In 2012, the firm obtained a favourable settlement for Canadian dairy company Aliments Ultima with its French franchisor, ending the ICC arbitration between the parties.
In China, the firm succeeded in enforcing two SIAC awards before the Wuxi courts in 2013 – no mean feat. It also gained the upper hand in a dispute between a US medicine company and its Taiwanese joint venture. The Taiwanese side handed over control of a Chinese pharmaceutical company to the US party, following a multi-pronged assault that saw McDermott Will & Emery obtaining ex parte attachment orders over personal residences in Taipei.
Konrad and Richman have also obtained a victory at ICSID for two German investors against Costa Rica in a dispute over an eco-tourism project and helped Poland defeat a claim in 2014.
In 2015, McDermott represented Swedish oil company Lundin Petroleum in the final merits hearing of its ICSID claim against Tunisia arising over a tax dispute.
Konrad and Richman are advising four German banks in their claim against Spain relating to the banks’ investment in solar power plants and continue to manage Germany’s defence of an ICSID claim brought by Swedish energy company Vattenfall.
Grierson sat as arbitrator in two ICC cases and preparing a second edition of Arbitrating under the 2012 ICC Rules: An Introductory User’s Guide. He is involved with a project to launch Casablanca as a international arbitration hub in North Africa.
For the ninth year, Konrad organised the Frankfurt Investment Arbitration Moot, which is famous for setting a creative problem based on real historical events.
Esa Kekkonen, counsel at Finnish forest industry company Metsä Group, hired McDermott Will & Emergy for a case that eventually settled and says the team’s desire to “understand the business case thoroughly” was critical to achieving that end.
Kevin Norman of German chemicals group Evonik Degussa says that McDermott lawyers managed to negotiate a settlement on the eve of arbitration that made his business “extremely happy”. The memorials were eloquent and concise and lawyers “quickly identified issues in order to bring a resolution to highly complex legal questions and cut down on potential costs,” he says.
Another client describes Sabine Konrad and the group as a whole as “professional, team-oriented and efficient. Their legal advice is absolutely cutting edge. They are not one of the firms that win the battle to lose the war. Their holistic approach enables them to see the whole picture, be it with regard to case strategy or other implications.”