Strategic Research Sponsor of the American Bar Association's Section of International Law
Richard Happ
Office:
Gänsemarkt 45
20354
City:
Hamburg
Country:
Germany
Tel:
+49 40 18067 12766
Fax:
+49 40 18067 110

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Arbitration

Richard Happ is a member of the Hamburg Bar and a partner of Luther Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft. Besides 10 offices in Germany, the firm has offices in Brussels, London, Luxembourg, Singapore, Shanghai and Yangoon.

He has represented clients in highly controversial cases such as the two ICSID cases against Germany and has extensively published in the field of investment arbitration. This includes a commentary on the ICSID arbitration rules and two volumes of the ICSID jurisprudence digest.

What inspired you to enter the legal profession?

I early on saw the benefits of good legal representation. My father had a building construction company.

How do you distinguish yourself from competitors in the market?

I have 20 years of research experience in investment arbitration law. I decided in 1996 to write my doctoral thesis about investment arbitration – not because it was a “hot” topic (which it wouldn’t be for another 10 years), but because the interplay of international law and private arbitration was academically interesting. The research work included the annual reports of ICSID case law, which ultimately led to two volumes of the ICSID Digest published with OUP, spanning 30 years of ICSID case law.

You have been at Luther for over 15 years. What do you enjoy most about working at the firm?

The freedom to do what I want to do (as long as it’s profitable).

Have there been any recent, major legal and commercial developments in Germany and Europe that have directly affected the practice area?

The move of the EU and its member states to replace investment arbitration with an investment court system. The consequences cannot yet be fully evaluated.

Given the issues regarding investor-state arbitration’s lack of transparency and susceptibility to abuse, what is its future in the European arbitration market?

These concerns are objectively unjustified. That, however, is irrelevant by now. Public opinion about these concerns has exercised sufficient pressure on the EU. The idea of an investment court system, if applied also to intra-EU relationships, would remedy a major shortcoming of the current system of EU court access: that individuals cannot apply to EU courts for protection of their rights.

What qualities make a successful dispute resolution lawyer?

Hard work – one needs to explore every nook and cranny of a case. The curiosity to ask those questions others did not think of and which might become decisive. Ingenuity – to be able to think out of the box if necessary. And finally, a talent for storytelling. Sound legal skills are a basis for all of this.

What advice would you give to younger lawyers starting their career in dispute resolution?

In many cases, there are good legal arguments for both sides. Never underestimate the power of facts. Courts/tribunals will try to render not only the correct legal decision, but also a just decision. Facts, and the way facts are presented, often can and will make the difference.

What has been the most memorable case that you have worked on?

My first ICSID case, Inmaris v Ukraine. Ukraine’s measures had led to the bankruptcy of the client, a small company. We acted for the insolvency administrator and were able to collect damages for the insolvency creditors. The case was the embodiment of the benefits of investment protection and ICSID. The case was also third-party funded as the client otherwise would have been prevented from access to justice.

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