Taking a recent headcount by Lenz & Staehelin as gospel, Switzerland’s largest firm has 36 lawyers at present deployed on arbitration work, divided between Geneva and Zurich. The firm is keen that its Zurich practice be given due recognition, it made clear to researchers this year. It emphasised that half the team - 18 lawyers - work from there, including a new partner. Ranking services pay regard to both offices, and to the firm’s position in the market. One book is at present putting it in the second rung for arbitration (and at the same level in a list for litigation), while a rival report, which publishes a combined ranking, gives the firm a number-one position (along with a fair few other Swiss firms). In keeping with the current trend in Switzerland, the arbitration practice, which was founded by one of Switzerland’s pre-eminent figures in the late 1980s, has sought out younger lawyers with an international background or mindset, it says. The arbitration partners also often sit as arbitrators (hence the lower volume of pending matters as counsel) - particularly Paolo Michele Patocchi and Xavier Favre-Bulle. The group is proud of its links with the Swiss Arbitration Academy, and junior lawyers are given assistance if they wish to take the academy’s one-year English language course. The practice has recently produced two home-grown partners.
- No. of pending cases:
- Value of all claims:
- US$16.1 billion
- No. of appearances in Who’s Who Legal:
- No. of treaty cases:
- No. of arbitrator appointments (no. as chair or sole):
2009 ended on a sad note for members of the firm with the death of Robert Briner. Briner, who for many years gave the firm its name in the field, was 80. As well as chair of the US-Iran Claims Tribunal in The Hague, his roles included chairing the ICC Court. Tributes flooded in.
On a happier note, the practice gained two new full-time specialist partners. Harold Frey’s promotion took effect in early 2009. Frey works in Zurich. As this book was going to print, a promotion for Miguel Oural, in Geneva, was confirmed.
In court, Paolo Michele Patocchi and Martin Aebi were behind one of the more discussed Federal Supreme Court decision of the year. The appeal is connected with the Vivendi v Elektrim dispute. Aided by members of the WilmerHale team who represent the interest of Deutsche Telekom in that long-running battle, the Lenz & Staehlin lawyers persuaded the court to leave an arbitrator’s award intact. The arbitrators had declined jurisdiction over a bankrupt company.
Asked to select a few highlights, Patocchi chose that, plus an ICC arbitration in which he defended a beverage maker. His team had the claim - alleging a serious breach of a licensing agreement that would have terminated the licence - dismissed “in full, with prejudice”. From the client’s perspective the matter could have been “life-threatening.”
Xavier Favre-Bulle said one of his highpoints was defending a sporting federation’s doping sanction at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The court upheld the sanction - applied to an athlete and a horse - after the Olympics in Beijing. The result meant Norway lost a team bronze medal.
The names to know at Lenz & Staehlin:
With over 150 attorneys, Lenz & Staehelin is the largest law firm in Switzerland. The firm has enjoyed a leading position in international arbitration for a number of decades. Our attorneys have been involved in several hundred international arbitrations, either as counsel for a party or sitting as arbitrators.
The arbitral practice works primarily on institutional arbitration, in particular arbitrations conducted under the rules of the International Chamber of Commerce, the Swiss Chambers of Commerce, the London Court of International Arbitration, the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes. The firm is also often involved in UNCITRAL and ad hoc arbitrations.
The firm’s international arbitration group includes more than 30 attorneys (equally divided between Geneva and Zurich). All have qualifications from or practical experience in common law jurisdictions; moreover, our team includes attorneys qualified to practise in a number of foreign jurisdictions such as the US, Italy and Germany.
Our work includes:
- State contracts, privatisation and investment arbitration
- Joint ventures
- Sales and distribution
- Construction and engineering
- Pharmaceutical industry
- M&A-related disputes
- IP and licensing
- Sports disputes
- General advice on arbitration issues
- Arbitration-related litigation, setting aside proceedings
Lenz & Staehelin
Route de Chêne 30
T: +41 58 450 70 00
F: +41 58 450 70 01
Paolo Michele Patocchi
Lenz & Staehelin
T: +41 58 450 80 00
F: +41 58 450 80 01