GAR 100 - 6th Edition

Norton Rose Fulbright

Professional notice

Numerous mergers promise a transformative effect on the firm’s arbitration group

People in Who’s Who:
Pending cases as counsel:
Value of pending counsel work:
US$38 billion
Treaty cases:
Current arbitrator appointments:
47 (29 as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:

Although their tie-up doesn’t take effect until June 2013, we’ve opted to treat Norton Rose and Fulbright & Jaworski as if they’ve already merged.

In fact, this is but the latest in a series of mergers that Norton Rose has engineered since 2009.

After recovering its financial mojo in the years before, the London-led firm hit the expansion trail, buying respected firms in Australia, Canada and South Africa in the past three years.

Although those mergers seem more motivated by the desire to surf Asia’s quest for natural resources, they’ve had the side effect of creating quite a potent international arbitration unit.

Curiously, Norton Rose itself may prove the smallest contributor, in some ways, to that new unit. Despite having gained a name in European international arbitration during the early 1990s thanks to Michael Lee (now a well-known arbitrator), things in Europe at least have been a bit fitful ever since. Successive heads of arbitration have left (Joseph Tirado just recently).

But elsewhere are units and individuals with serious pedigree.

In Canada, the firm has taken over Ogilvy Renault, a GAR 100 firm in its own right. Its team – led by Pierre Bienvenu and Martin Valasek – grew up under the tutelage of the colossus Yves Fortier. It had become thought of as Canada’s pre-eminent arbitration firm; some saw it as proof that a top-notch practice can develop away from the usual centres of arbitration, as long as conditions are right.

Then there’s Fulbright & Jaworski – also a GAR 100 firm – and one of the first US firms to gain a name in international arbitration. Fulbright & Jaworski worked on some early seminal cases when arbitration was just starting to boom. Sibneft v Yukos is one example. Although it has had ups and downs since, Fulbright has continued to nurture top-notch talent. Currently it is home to Mark Baker, Kevin O’Gorman, Aníbal Sabater (Houston), David Howell and Deborah Ruff (London), and Philip Punwar (Dubai) – all nominess in The Who’s Who of Commercial Arbitration.

Through a merger with Canada’s Macleod Dixon, Norton Rose has also acquired Elisabeth Eljuri – one of Venezuela’s leading transactional lawyers, who also has a niche in international disputes. Besides being local adviser to numerous international energy clients, Eljuri is a past president of the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators.

More recently still, the Frankfurt office hired Patricia Nacimiento – formerly a partner at White & Case and one of the few German practitioners instructed on investment treaty claims.

Whether all those pieces will be in place once the dust settles from the mergers, only time will tell – but, if they are, and somebody can knit them together, this group will be a force to be reckoned with.


Thanks to all those mergers (some with Australian and South African firms we haven’t really mentioned) Norton Rose is on the ground in all the usual places, but also Caracas, Brisbane, Montreal, Melbourne, Johannesberg and Sydney.

One office that deserves special mention is probably Singapore, which has enjoyed a name in arbitration – largely thanks to Guy Spooner – for many years.

Who uses it?

It’s early days when it comes to regular clients – but Moser Baer (the Indian tech firm), AbitibiBowater, Bombadier, ConocoPhillips, Exterran, Bank of Nova Scotia, Nestlé, Norsk Hydro, RWE and West LB are all companies that have used one or other of the parent practices. The government of Kazakhstan is also a client.

Track record

Again, it’s early days, and some of the constituent parts have more illustrious records than others.

Not long ago, the Canadian team obtained the largest payment so far seen under NAFTA (US$130 million paid for AbitibiBowater).

A few years earlier it produced one of the (then) biggest awards seen at ICSID arbitration (US$85 million for an airport company). The case is a leading one on a particular type of damages calculation (the Chorzów Factory standard).

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Eljuri has had success of late on behalf of an oil company taking on PDVSA, and Patricia Nacimiento recently had an award enforced through the Indian courts.

The Fulbright team obtained full payment plus costs for a client in a dispute about the supply of helicopters.

Recent events

Aside from the announcement of the merger with Fulbright, 2012 was an up and down sort of year.

The merger with McLeod Dixon bedded down, bringing Eljuri and two other partners to the fold.

In May, Sherina Petit, one of the lynchpins of work in London, became a partner. Not long after, though, Joseph Tirado, the head of international arbitration in London, announced he was moving on (to Winston & Strawn). So did Stephen Abrahamson (to Baker & McKenzie).

In Canada, Stephen Drymer, another well-established name in that practice, has also gone to pastures new: he joined Woods & Co.

Fulbright & Jaworski in London saw their partner Richard Hill joining Shell International for a senior position in that firm’s new disputes department. But it welcomed Deborah Ruff, a respected figure previously with Dewey & LeBoeuf.

Client comment

The general counsel of an Indian aviation and travel corporation, who asked to remain anonymous, provided this recommendation for Norton Rose:

“As an organisation, we would never have achieved the settlement that we finally achieved if it was not for the brilliance, perseverance, strategic and timely advice of the star team led by Joe [Tirado] and Sherina [Petit].

“I hope we never have to ever fight any battle of this nature, but if we did, hell would have to freeze over before we instructed anyone else other than this stupendous team.”

International arbitration is most effectively handled by a team with global reach and a broad base of experience and language skills.

We have 70 arbitration partners who lead teams in key arbitration centres including Dubai, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Houston, London, New York, Paris and Singapore. This makes us one of the very few legal practices with the skills and resources to assist clients from the outset of a dispute through to enforcement of an award wherever in the world the dispute arises, whatever the seat, whatever the governing law, wherever it needs to be enforced and whichever industry it concerns. We are currently running international arbitration disputes with an aggregate value running into tens of billions of dollars. Many of our practitioners sit as members of arbitral tribunals.

We are instructed by major corporations, global financial institutions and government and state-owned entities from a broad range of industry sectors, including energy; infrastructure, mining and commodities; transport; technology; and banking. These clients turn to us for assistance on their most sensitive, high-value and strategically important arbitrations.

We handle all types of institutional and ad hoc commercial arbitration, including arbitrations conducted under the rules of UNCITRAL, the International Chamber of Commerce, the American Arbitration Association, the International Centre for Dispute Resolution, the London Court of International Arbitration, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre, the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission, the Dubai International Arbitration Centre, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, the Houston Maritime Arbitrators Association, and the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce.

We work closely with our clients to determine and achieve their commercial objectives in a quick and cost-effective manner. We advise on all aspects of arbitration, from drafting suitable clauses to advising on the type and seat of arbitration, the formation of the tribunal, arbitral procedure and enforcement of the award. We are skilled advocates in many languages. We also give advice and assist in conducting all forms of alternative dispute resolution, including mediation, adjudication and expert determination.


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