GAR 100 - 2nd Edition


Professional notice

Lalive was probably the first law firm known as a place you took your large international commercial arbitration. The firm grew from the prominence of professor Pierre Lalive in the 1970s and 1980s. Today he is the "grand old man of Swiss arbitration" and "the pioneer". Dealing in Virtue, a book about the history of private justice, says Lalive's career "defined stature" for his generation. (Jan Paullsson, for example, is described as the Lalive equivalent in his generation.) At the height of his career as an advocate and counsel, and later arbitrator, Lalive was at the centre of many arbitrations from the "classic" period, including Sapphire v Iran, Texaco v Libya and Aminoil v Kuwait. With Michael Schneider, he was counsel in the first-ever arbitration heard at the ICSID centre. He also chaired the first ICSID annulment panel.

Cases Pending:
Value of all claims:
Appearances in Who's Who Legal:
Treaty cases:
Arbitrator Appointments (chair/sole):
31 (18)

Over the years, Lalive has developed a full-service element. But at least half of the firm's dozen partners continue to make large complex international arbitration their focus. "Yes, we've grown and provide a wider range of services, but we still see ourselves as very much an international arbitration boutique says" Veijo Heiskanen. Some 20 lawyers in total are attached to the arbitration group. It covers commercial arbitration, investment disputes and public international law matters, including mass claims. The firm's lengthy immersion in the field means it has two decades-worth of contacts, particularly in regions without a history of good coverage by network law firms.

Given its pioneering role in the field, the firm has long had an identity as an "international" player, rather than a typical Swiss practice. It will actively shun certain work. "We don't focus on run-of-the-mill Swiss arbitration. In fact, Switzerland as such has no major significance for our work," says Domatille Baizeau. It enjoys a particular niche with governments as the firm to call when mass claims and similar unique, large-scale problems arise; something that our league tables have trouble capturing. One of those matters - where the value at stake is monumental - cannot be made public.

Lately the strategy has produced hints of tension. In late 2008, Dominique Brown-Berset left to start a boutique (see entry for Brown & Page). She said that firms that failed to position themeselves "as a partner to the international law firms rather than a competitor" were missing a trick. Brown-Berset had joined Lalive in 2005 as a lateral partner.

Something our researchers had no trouble capturing was Lalive's reputation with peers. A glance at the GAR Thirty shows it to be right at the top. It is the highest-ranking Swiss practice in that table. The firm commented, on seeing a prototype version of the GAR 30, that merely counting numbers of cases would never capture the quality of its work or skill. Nor would adding in a look at the cases' value. "Large arbitrations easily last three to four years," the firm said, "so if you focus on hearings only, your rankings will be extremely volatile year to year." It made the sensible suggestion to put more weight on appointments as arbitrator in one of the league tables, since the skills that clients need are also gained that way. In fact, if anything, the lawyer who regularly sits as an arbitrator is the more astute advocate. We took that suggestion on board.

Names to know are Professor Lalive himself, Teresa Giovannini, Matthias Scherer, Veijo Heiskanen and Domitille Baizeau. The associate pool now includes many lateral recruits from firms such as Shearman & Sterling, WilmerHale, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Skadden Arps.

Other aspects of Lalive to note are as follows:

  • the firm's institutional knowledge is without compare. Professor Lalive was there at the beginning of arbitration's modern era. He personally participated, along with colleagues who remain at the firm, in seminal cases such as Sapphire v Iran, Texaco v Libya and Aminoil v Kuwait. With Michael Schneider, he was counsel in the first-ever arbitration heard at the ICSID centre. He also chaired the first ICSID annulment panel;
  • the firm's lengthy immersion in the field give it two decades worth of "best friends" in jurisdictions around the world. The respect in which its individuals are held means it will often gain access on a client's behalf where others would encounter a closed door. It was Michael Schneider, for example, who was asked to chair Working Group II, the body that has been revising the UNCITRAL arbitration rules; and
  • the firm has increased its depth in public international law. Veijo Heiskanen, a former professor at the Hague Academy of International law, joined the firm fulltime in 2007, having been of counsel for many years. He has rare experience in handling mass claims, as former deputy chief in the Legal Service of the United Nations Compensation Commission. He was also secretary general and senior claims judge at the Claims Resolution Tribunal for Dormant Accounts in Switzerland.


LALIVE is a Geneva-based international law firm renowned for its experience in international arbitration and litigation. The firm's lawyers advise and represent clients world-wide as counsel and experts, and regularly act as arbitrators, in complex international arbitration proceedings involving a variety of international transactions and industries.

LALIVE has been involved in arbitrations under most important rules of international arbitration, including the ICC, UNCITRAL, Swiss Chambers, LCIA, ICDR/AAA, IATA, WIPO and CAS. The firm has a long-standing experience in public international law disputes involving State parties, including in ICSID arbitration and in proceedings before the ICJ and the WTO. The firm regularly advises on disputes subject to foreign law, where required in close cooperation with local attorneys. Many of the firm's lawyers are non-Swiss nationals or have been legally trained outside Switzerland, including in England and the United States. Ten languages are currently spoken within the firm.

LALIVE has extensive know-how in mediation, conciliation and other alternative dispute resolution methods. It also provides advice and represents clients in other fields related to international dispute resolution, including domestic litigation before Swiss courts (challenge, recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards in Switzerland, and applications to local courts in support of arbitration), international corporate finance and commercial contracts, international judicial assistance, and white collar crime.

For more information, please contact any of the partners of the international dispute resolution group:

Professor Pierre Lalive
[email protected]

Michael E. Schneider
[email protected]

Teresa Giovannini
[email protected]

Veijo Heiskanen
[email protected]

Dominique Brown-Berset
[email protected]

Matthias Scherer
[email protected]

Domitille Baizeau
[email protected]

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