The team has expanded dramatically in the past year
- Pending cases as counsel:
- Value of pending counsel work:
- US$14 billion
- Treaty cases:
- Current arbitrator appointments:
- 16 (of which 7 are as sole or chair)
- No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
K&L Gates is the product of a complicated sequence of mergers: East Coast firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart absorbed UK practice Nicholson Graham & Jones in 2005, then fused with Seattle-based firm Preston Gates & Ellis two years later before going on to merge with three other firms from Texas, North Carolina and Chicago. More recently, in January 2013, the firm merged with Australia’s Middletons, making it the largest US-based firm in the Asia-Pacific region.
The arbitration practice of the legacy firms focused on construction and insurance matters to a large extent, but the merged practice significantly widened its scope in 2009 with some high-profile lateral hires: Louis Degos in Paris, a former Eversheds partner better known for his commercial arbitration work; and Raja Bose in Singapore, who came on board after 10 years at Watson Farley & Williams to become head of the Asia practice. Investment arbitration specialist Sabine Konrad – one of Germany’s appointees to the ICSID panel of arbitrators – was also hired as part of this wave and spent three years at the firm, but is now with McDermott Will & Emery.
K&L Gates expanded further in 2010 with the acquisition of Hogan & Hartson’s Warsaw office in the run-up to the Lovells merger (including a strong team of arbitration specialists led by Maciej Jamka), and new partner hires in Singapore and Hong Kong. In Tokyo, meanwhile, the firm was joined by a team from Clifford Chance, including Atsushi Yamashita, who has worked on a number of international arbitrations.
There followed the recruitment of Johann von Pachelbel in Frankfurt from Mannheimer Swartling, a specialist in Scandinavian disputes, in 2011. The Middletons merger also gave K&L Gates additional dispute resolution lawyers in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth – and set the scene for several more new faces in 2013.
The firm is proud of the relative youth of the arbitration group – many of its leading members are 45 or under. Despite that, several members of the group are established arbitrators: Raja Bose, Louis Degos, new addition Ania Farren, Chicago partner Stephen O’Neil and of counsel Rafal Morek in Warsaw.
K&L Gates says it aims to spread out its talent across offices, rather than cluster its lawyers in a few key arbitral centres so they're available when clients demand. The arbitration practice has boots on the ground in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Warsaw, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo and various US offices (New York, Dallas and Pittsburgh).
The wider firm has 46 offices on five continents (of which over half are in the US).
Who uses it?
Poland, Germany and the Netherlands have been government clients on investment treaty matters, while Spain and France have lately turned to it for arbitration-related court work concerning liability for a massive oil spill. The firm has also advised ICSID claimants, including German airport operator Fraport, against the Philippines.
In the commercial sphere, multinationals that have used the firm include Alcoa, Deere & Company, DuPont, Duke Energy, Fujifilm America, Goldman Sachs, Honeywell International, TeliaSonera, Siemens and World Wrestling Entertainment.
Other past clients include Murphy Oil, in an insurance coverage dispute arising out of damage by Hurricane Katrina; and the West Indies Cricket Board, in a fast-track LCIA arbitration with Digicel relating to the Twenty20 cricket tournament.
In 2009, K&L Gates helped Belgium’s Transcor Astra Group win a US$640 million against the US arm of Brazil’s Petrobras in a dispute over put options – and went on to get the award enforced in a US court. Petrobras had challenged enforcement on the grounds that Astra, though registered in the Netherlands, should be considered a US company because its CEO lives in California. The US court denied the challenge, and a team of K&L Gates lawyers led by Gerald Novak and Beth Petronio finally helped Astra secure a US$820 million settlement with Petrobras in 2012.
In the same year, Jennifer Coughlin in the Anchorage office helped the US state of Alaska secure a US$245 million award against BP in compensation for delayed oil production as a result of two oil spills in the North Slope region.
The firm promoted Wojciech Sadowski in Warsaw and Charlotte Baillot in Paris to partner.
It also made a series of hires: partner Kevin Ross-Andino in Miami, a Latin America and Caribbean disputes specialist who joined from Foley & Lardner; and special counsel Ania Farren in London. Fluent in Polish, she joined from Baker Botts and has significant investment treaty arbitration experience (as well as being on the organising committee for the International Arbitration Charity Ball).
Partner James Duffy joined in New York from DLP Piper; energy, infrastructure and resources partner Mike Stewart arrived in London from Pinsent Masons; and construction disputes partner Matthew Walker joined in Doha from Dentons.
There were further hires in Hong Kong (of counsel Samuel Ngo from Orrick), Milan (counsel Stefano Bardella from DLA Piper), Singapore (special counsel Nick Watts from Herbert Smith Freehills) and Washington, DC (partner Frank Schweitzer, a former associate general counsel to the United States Trade Representative).
Valence Borgia in Paris teamed up with colleagues from other firms to establish a series of breakfast roundtables in the city called Wake Up With Arbitration, or WUWA.
Also in Paris, Degos joined a number of prominent French arbitration practitioners in penning a column in Le Figaro condemning the “judicial and media frenzy” surrounding a €403 million arbitral award in favour of controversial businessman Bernard Tapie against a French state entity.
Degos was also a member of the International Bar Association task force that developed the new guidelines on party representation, which were approved in May.
London-based partner Ian Meredith and Ania Farren have been acting for Spain and France in English court proceedings. The states are trying to overturn two arbitral awards that purport to cap an insurance club’s liability for a decade-old oil spill caused by the sinking of The Prestige off the Spanish coast. The High Court ruled in the club’s favour in October but the states have appealed the decision. The case is worth billions of euros.
One state client says it worked very closely with lawyers from K&L Gates and was “satisfied with the strategy defined by them, and the way in which they conducted the preparation of the case”.
“They have proved an excellent capacity to be close to the political features of the case and to understand the different elements of [our] legal system,” the state representative added.
GLOBAL DEPTH IN INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION
International arbitration can be a daunting process that often involves unique factors and considerations. With international arbitration lawyers on the ground in 48 offices across five continents, we have a deep understanding of the different rules, practices, and cultures in various jurisdictions and regularly guide clients through all stages of this critical area.
Our expansive global presence, including in many of the world’s leading arbitration centers, allows us to assist clients where they need us, when they need us.
Learn more at klgates.com.
Ian Meredith, London
Raja Bose, Singapore