Schellenberg Wittmer shook up the Swiss market for international arbitration some 14 years ago. At around that time, a partner on the Geneva side of what was not yet a merged firm – Laurent Lévy – persuaded his colleagues to build an arbitration that could pitch for truly international cases. He figured, he later explained, it would introduce new clients to the firm.
- People in Who’s Who:
- Pending cases as counsel:
- Value of pending counsel work:
- US$1 billion
- Treaty cases:
- Current arbitrator appointments:
- 60 (of which 37 are as sole or chair)
- No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
Lévy recruited a second partner, Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler, and together they implemented the idea, creating a team that combined Swiss lawyers with others who were foreign-trained, and focusing more on oral advocacy than was the norm. Lévy and Kaufmann-Kohler now have their own arbitrators-only boutique, but the lawyers they groomed remain and by all accounts the practice goes from strength to strength. The firm took a quick survey recently and noted that it’s recently acted in cases applying English law, Polish law, Filipino law, and Cameroonian law, none of which was heard in Switzerland. The values established early on remain. Members are encouraged to sit as arbitrators, to pursue parallel academic careers, and to focus on advocacy.
The current firm is the product of a merger in 2000 between Geneva and Zurich firms, both of which were known for dispute resolution. Unusually for a Swiss firm, the arbitration practice is equally strong in the French and German speaking parts of the country.
In 2009, Schellenberg Wittmer won an award worth as much as US$100 million on behalf of Watson Pharmaceuticals. A tribunal ruled the company could continue selling Ferrlecit, an iron-deficiency treatment, in the US for the remainder of the year. Its share price jumped 42 cents on the news (1.4 per cent). In 2008, the drug generated US revenues of $148 million. More recently, it helped an engineering firm avoid serious reputational damage after it walked away from a tram project.
In March, Anne-Véronique Schlaepfer was elected chair of the Swiss Chamber’s Court of Arbitration and Mediation. Later in the year, Manuel Liatowitsch was appointed co-chair of the Swiss Arbitration Association’s young practitioners’ group. In keeping with the firm’s avowed multinationalism, the Zurich office welcomed a US-trained German lawyer, while a French-qualified Spanish speaker joined the practice in Geneva. The practice, however, has said farewell to David Roney, its Canadian-trained partner. Roney, who founded of the Foundation for International Arbitration Advocacy, has joined the Geneva office of Sidley Austin.
Who's Who nominees:
- Georg von Segesser, Anne Veronique Schlaepfer, Nathalie Voser, Martin Bernet & Elliott Geisinger
International Arbitration Group
Schellenberg Wittmer’s International Arbitration Group is composed of leading specialists with the experience and expertise necessary to provide representation at the highest level in a broad range of complex commercial cases.
We are recognised as one of the pre-eminent arbitration groups in Switzerland and among the top arbitration practices globally.
Our partners have acted as counsel and arbitrator in disputes involving parties from around the world and places of arbitration from Europe to the Middle East, Asia and North America. We have dealt with arbitrations under all major institutional rules. With lawyers from both civil law and common law traditions, we conduct cases governed by a wide range of national laws and provide common law advocacy skills. Our team is multijurisdictional and includes lawyers trained and admitted to the bar in the United States, England and Wales, France and Germany.
As a result of our diverse backgrounds and international experience, we understand the complex issues that arise in global business.
When sitting as arbitrator, we therefore grasp both the legal intricacies of the case and also the business challenges facing each party.
When acting as counsel, we know how to find solutions that meet our clients’ strategic objectives. This enables our International Arbitration Group to provide creative and result-oriented advocacy, from critical pre-arbitration injunctions through to effective enforcement strategies.
Schellenberg Wittmer is one of the leading business law firms in Switzerland. Over 110 specialized attorneys in Zurich and Geneva advise domestic and international clients on all aspects of business law. Our areas of advice include: banking and finance, competition and antitrust, dispute resolution and international arbitration, intellectual property/information technology, mergers & acquisitions, private equity and venture capital, private clients, trusts & estates, foundations, real estate and construction, restructuring and insolvency, taxation, white-collar crime and compliance.