Domitille Baizeau
New Zealand
  • PositionPartner
  • FirmLALIVE
  • Age-
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Domitille Baizeau

Domitille Baizeau

New Zealand
  • Position: Partner
  • FirmLALIVE
  • Age: -

Partner
40
Lalive, Geneva
French-New Zealander

Why international arbitration?

It all happened by chance really: I trained and started my legal career in commercial litigation in New Zealand. When I decided to move to Paris for personal reasons, I was offered a position in the international arbitration practice group of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. I never looked back.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

There have been many, but working closely with Pierre Lalive as counsel when I joined the firm in 2004 was definitely one of them.

Who do you consider your mentor?

I have had many over the years. Since joining Lalive, there are two people in particular to whom I have turned for guidance when needed: Matthias Scherer and Veijo Heiskanen. Both have outstanding legal minds but not an ounce of arrogance.

What other career might you have chosen?

I think I would have stuck to litigation. I do have interests outside law, but never thought of wine making, skiing or singing as viable career options.

What advice would you give someone just starting out?

The advice I give to our interns: aim for perfection in particular in your written work; do not think that learning about arbitration in books and through courses is sufficient - practical experience is absolutely key in this field, and the broader your experience the better; and keep an open mind, as each case and each client is unique and you never stop learning.

Do you sit as an arbitrator?

I do. I got my first appointments at 37, from the LCIA and from the Swiss Chambers.

What are the biggest challenges facing arbitration?

Retaining flexibility and creativity while ensuring predictability and an even playing field for all the protagonists. Creating new rules to cover every single issue one may encounter may not be the best or only way to reach the right balance. Another challenge is cost control, even if the issue may not be as acute everywhere, and even if, compared to litigation, arbitration usually remains a better alternative.

If you could change one thing about the system...?

Having so many practitioners, arbitrators included, who insist on following the procedure they are used to and resist any different approach. I could also do without arbitrators who do not seem to know what it is like to act as counsel.

What’s been your most memorable moment in a hearing?

When our party-appointed arbitrator, a well-known Canadian practitioner, was challenged by the other side after the hearing, among other grounds on the basis that I had fed him questions for the witnesses, when in fact I had quite obviously only been passing the attendance sheet back to him.

What’s your favourite city to arbitrate in?

As a seat, Geneva and Zurich, because of the extremely straightforward and arbitration-friendly legal environment we enjoy in Switzerland. As a favourite place to be, Paris, followed by Stockholm and London.

What’s your favourite restaurant?

After home (my husband is a great cook), it is “Le Clos du Lac”, a small restaurant on the shore of Lake Geneva, five minutes from where I live. The food is consistently superb.

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