Older international arbitration hands, if asked to cast their minds back to where different people got their start in the field, will mention how certain institutions - law firms, universities, and so on - have played a disproportionate role in the family tree of the current arbitration community. A classic example given in those conversations is Coudert Brothers LLP. The now defunct firm was home, at various times, to Julian Lew QC, Jan Paulsson and W Laurence Craig, to name just a few.
- No. of pending cases:
- Value of all claims:
- US$11 billion
- No. of appearances in Who’s Who Legal:
- No. of treaty cases:
- No. of arbitrator appointments (no. as chair or sole):
A part of Coudert’s practice lives on, in a fashion, at Dechert, where many of the arbitration team have reunited.
They did so, on and off, between 2005 and 2006. As a result, the firm has been heading up the rankings particularly for Paris, reaching now the second tier. That’s no surprise, a quick flip through older sources suggests, since the Coudert practice enjoyed that kind of status. It’s also a result of the fact the arbitration lawyers are exceptionally well regarded as professors and academic-style lawyers in their own right, with two of them in particular in considerable demand as arbitrators. One partner has been described, in print, as possibly France’s smartest man.
Away from Paris, the practice has been expanding, adding a partner-level name in London and Washington, DC through lateral hires. Notably, in the latter it’s recruited Anne Marie Whitesell, the most recent past-secretary general of the ICC Court of International Arbitration who is now operating from Washington, DC. Since the practice is also home to a recent deputy secretary general of the court, it has a particularly strong offer to make on ICC work. As well as connections with the ICC, others note, the practice is home to one of the larger contingents of Spanish speakers in the French market - due in part to the Colombian heritage of one partner - and competes hard for Latin American work.
The firm told researchers that it has continued to expand the Spanish-speaking part of the group, bringing in two associates in Paris who are native speakers. With no investment in new partners made, it said the focus was on better linking the current team with the firm’s recently opened offices in Hong Kong, Beijing and Moscow. Each of those offices provides the arbitration team with considerable opportunities, it said, which the members plan to exploit.
On the business side, parts of 2009 were consumed by the defence of Ecuador against Occidental Oil - represented by Debevoise & Plimpton - which was identified by Dechert lawyers as a high point. The hearings concerned have been described by several of those who participated as impressive affairs. The year was also memorable, the firm said, for a result obtained for France Telecom against ORASCOM in a dispute between major shareholders. The arbitrators ordered the opponent to sell a tranche of shares to Dechert’s client, in a result that was much-reported in the wider media. ORASCOM was represented by Skadden.
Throughout 2009, Dechert lawyers continued to work on aspects of Thales v Republic of Taiwan, in which Dechert represents Taiwan and Shearman & Sterling the other side. The case, which has a large political dimension, owing to the underlying facts, has been running 10 years. In 2009, offshoots of the case continued to test the courts and the arbitration laws of various jurisdictions.
Lawyers to know at Dechert:
- Paris: Pierre Mayer, Xavier Nyssen, Eduardo Silva Romero and Philip Dunham;
- London: Daniel Gal; and
- Washington, DC: Anne Marie Whitesell.