GAR 100 - 7th Edition

Norton Rose Fulbright

Professional notice

A series of mergers has created a formidable looking IA group

People in Who's Who:
8
Pending cases as counsel:
299
Value of pending counsel work:
US$43 billion
Treaty cases:
14
Current arbitrator appointments:
46 (of which 34 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
14

In 2013, Norton Rose and Fulbright & Jaworski became a single firm.

Curiously, the Norton Rose side wasn’t so well known for international arbitration, despite its deep roots in shipping, energy and construction – all prime arbitration generators.

That’s not to say it was unknown. The firm had some practice in the area since the early 1990s – when the well-regarded Michael Lee (today a successful arbitrator) was a partner. But for various reasons, progress had always been slow building a name in arbitration, except in Singapore.

A series of mergers it embarked on back in 2009 look to have changed that. While the purpose probably wasn’t to create a new international arbitration supergroup, that’s clearly been an effect.

In particular, Norton Rose took over Ogilvy Renault, a Canadian firm with arbitration pedigree. The Ogilvy Renault team grew up under the tutelage of Yves Fortier, the leading arbitrator. It had become thought of as Canada’s pre-eminent arbitration firm, and proof that an international arbitration practice can develop outside the usual centres of work. We used to list it independently in the 100 and some years it appeared in the GAR 30 too.

Now one can add to that the team at Fulbright & Jaworski – also a GAR 100 firm. Fulbright & Jaworski was one of the first US firms to gain a name in international arbitration, working on – among other things – Sibneft v Yukos (once the largest arbitration in the world). That has added Mark Baker, Kevin O’Gorman and Aníbal Martín Sabater in the US, and Deborah Ruff in London – all big names in the field and active participants in the life of the wider arbitration community.

Through a merger with Canada’s Macleod Dixon in 2012, Norton Rose has also acquired Elisabeth Eljuri – one of Venezuela’s leading transactional lawyers, who also has a niche in international oil disputes.

Other respected names are Patricia Nacimiento in the Frankfurt office and Guy Spooner in Singapore, who heads the well regarded Asia team.

If all the elements knit, the group ought to be a force.

Network

There are recognised international arbitration specialists in offices across the US, Canada, Australia and South Africa. On top of that, important offices are Caracas, Paris, London, Frankfurt, Moscow, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Who uses it?

Assuming that the new firm is at least the sum of its parts, clients should include a lot Canadian blue-chips and mining firms, City of London financial institutions, construction firms, shipyards, energy businesses and oil and gas service providers – to name just a few.

Some names with which members of the practice have been associated include AbitibiBowater, Bombadier, BP, Bank of Nova Scotia, Nestlé, Foster Wheeler, Norsk Hydro, BHP Billiton, WADA, Canadian-Pacific Railways and the government of Kazakhstan.

Track record

It’s early days for the merged firm, but the individual components all arrived with their own highlights reel. In Ogilvy Renault’s case, the team can boast winning the largest payment so far under NAFTA (a US$130 million settlement for AbitibiBowater, ending a claim against Canada) in 2010; and a US$85 million award against Hungary at ICSID for an airport company in 2005 (one of the largest of that era).

In another ICSID case in 2012, the Macleod Dixon team helped a subsidiary of the US’s Exterran Holdings agree a US$442 million settlement with Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, in compensation for nationalised gas compression assets. (Weil Gotshal & Manges was co-counsel on the claimant’s side.)

Meanwhile, the Fulbright team did well recently on behalf of an industrial-boiler maker in a dispute with a former Chinese licensee. The team is now launching its third wave of claims against the other side over power stations it has built around the world, and has secured a worldwide injunction preventing further misuse. It’s also enjoyed some success persuading a Latin American government to back down from some proposed tax changes.

The combined group continues to bring in big and interesting work. For example it’s working on one of the biggest disputes to arise out of the Arab Spring – a matter where Baker Botts, Shearman & Sterling and Freshfields are all representing parties – and now for an oil-rich central European government in a billion-dollar Energy Charter Treaty dispute. Its also in charge of bringing a case against the Greek government over a cancelled defence contract. The matter has required fancy footwork at the ICC owing to late-breaking evidence.

Recent events

Mergers aside, the news in 2012 was largely about people moving on – notably the head of Norton Rose’s international arbitration practice in London, Joe Tirado, who moved to Winston & Strawn.

In 2013, there have been some more departures (as happens during large mergers) but this has been offset by some positive news. In London, the team bade a fond farewell to David Howell, a highly respected senior partner who’s now developing a practice as an independent arbitrator. And in Dubai, Philip Punwar and Jonathan Sutcliffe joined Baker Botts as part of the shakeout from the merger. Norton Rose Fulbright still has two partners on the ground in the region who are versed in arbitral disputes.

On the other side of the ledger, Anibal Sabiter, a lynchpin of the US practice, has relocated from Houston to New York, which is expected to boost work there. And in Asia, James Rogers (in Hong Kong) and Wilson Ang (in Singapore) were both promoted to partner.

Client comment

The general counsel of an Indian aviation company used the firm for a matter that ended in a favourable settlement, and praises the “brilliance, perseverance, strategic and timely advice of the star team.”

The source adds, “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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