At the beginning of 2015, the Swiss government continued to dismantle its legendary bank secrecy laws. Despite finance minister Hans-Rudolf Merz’s insistence in 2009 that Switzerland would never revise these, the changes appear to have been made following the 2009 UBS scandal which saw the country’s largest bank being fined $780 million for aiding foreign tax evaders. As a result, the country has faced ongoing pressure from neighbouring EU and US authorities for more transparency and tax compliance. While the globalisation of information appears to be a worldwide trend, the effect of such changes on a country such as Switzerland, which has built one of the most advanced banking systems in the world on the back of confidentiality, will be remarkable to see for interested parties both within the country and on a global scale.
Lawyers we spoke to predicted that this trend would see an accelerated focus on the private banking sectors, as these would retain a level of confidentiality, and thereby, perhaps ironically, strengthen the state by entrenching money deeper within it. It was stated that domestic and cross-border deals would also be on the rise as a result of these changes. Furthermore, under the new regulations of Basel III, there would be a steady increase in regulatory, compliance and financing cases.
At the same time, the central bank undertook “one of the most dramatic currency interventions in decades” by somewhat unexpectedly removing the cap placed on the value of the franc, sending it soaring 39 per cent against both the euro and the dollar. The cap had been put in place in 2011 as a way to ease the heavy flow of investment into Switzerland after the eurozone debt crisis, but the bank’s ever-bloating balance sheets reached a record of 495 billion Swiss francs in foreign currencies – around 80 per cent of Switzerland’s GDP – spurring the need to abandon the cap. Exporters such as Richemont and Swatch have mainly been affected, as well as manufacturing and tourism industries which have been hit by a 10 to 12 per cent margin. Many M&A lawyers we spoke to stated how this would create a window of opportunity in the sector, as the purchase of foreign companies and investment abroad would be on the rise. In terms of international clients, it is thought that many Swiss companies would be undervalued through a combination of macro uncertainty, market volatility and unpredictable profit margins, thereby resulting as a driver for M&A transactions both inbound and outbound.
Further to this, Switzerland continues its controversial immigration curbs. These have been criticised by many, particularly the pharmaceutical and financial sectors that rely heavily on foreign workers. These curbs have also been met with hostility by the European Commission in Brussels, which denounces any procedures that look to restrict the free movement of persons agreement within the EU, in effect since 1999. Alongside this, the government’s move to introduce quotas to foreign workers within the country is a tremendous move, as one in four citizens are immigrants. While there has been a greater push towards maximising the presence of women and older individuals in the workforce, due to reasons of time and expertise, these are proving e difficult policy manoeuvres and the country still faces an ageing population. As such, while the motion has been backed by almost half of Swiss voters, many are sceptical that it will ever be fully implemented and see it as part of the conservative Swiss People’s Party’s wider agenda. Indeed, the Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga states that the negotiations will be difficult as ‘the positions are very far apart, and there is not much manoeuvring room’.
Corporate immigration practitioners we spoke to stated that this has complicated the procedure and restrictions places on those attempting to move to and work in Switzerland. While this will increase the flow of work in the short term, with many businesses requiring counsel on how best to proceed, many state that if these plans will ultimately harm practice as the immigration regulations will lead to a decline in settlement applications. In tow with this, the Lex Koller discussions currently under way will also affect the ability of foreign investors in Switzerland, and will limit construction to the hospitality and commercial industries, which may also see a decline in coming years.
In sum, Switzerland is facing many changes and challenges in the coming years, especially in regard to its identity and relations within the international community. These are perhaps best exemplified in the trademark bill for 2017 which will require further regulations to the “Swissness” marketing stamp on products. It will be fascinating to observe how these will affect well-established practices and cause them to adapt to new circumstances.
In this chapter we highlight 88 leading arbitration practitioners and four expert witnesses.
In this chapter we highlight the 20 leading asset recovery specialists in Switzerland.
In this practice area we have listed 43 of the leading specialists in Switzerland.
A total of 28 lawyers are recommended for their experience in business crime defence.
In this chapter we identify 37 individuals.
In this chapter, we identify 51 lawyers.
In this chapter we identify 23 leading competition lawyers and a trio of competition economists.
41 leading lawyers are singled out in this practice area
In this chapter we highlight 23 corporate governance practitioners.
In this section we single out 15 practitioners specialising in corporate immigration.
In this chapter we identify 51 outstanding individuals in the field of corporate tax.
In this chapter we highlight 11 leading energy lawyers.
Sixteen individuals garner recognition in this chapter.
In this chapter we highlight 12 leading franchise practitioners.
14 individuals stand out for their leading contribution to this area of law.
In this chapter we feature the 24 leading insurance practitioners in the Swiss market.
In this chapter we recognise 13 of Switzerland’s leading investigations practitioners.
23 outstanding individuals are recognised by our research for their outstanding contribution to the field.
There are 31 leading life sciences practitioners recognised in this chapter.
33 individuals are highlighted in our research this year.
This chapter highlights 21 leading Swiss mediation lawyers.
This year, we list 32 leading experts in M&A transactions.
This year, we include 24 practitioners for their expertise in patent law.
We recognise 56 individuals as leading in private client law.
In this chapter we highlight 15 leading private client, trust and advisory lawyers.
In this practice area nine names are recognised as leading individuals.
We select 15 practitioners for recommendation in this practice area.
Twenty-six lawyers are singled out for their expertise in sports law and entertainment law.
We feature 41 of the leading TMT lawyers in Switzerland in this chapter.
We recognise 15 leading trade lawyers in this chapter.
This chapter highlights 39 trademark practitioners.
In this chapter we feature 34 leading names in the field.
Bär & Karrer is a dominant feature of the Swiss market with offices in Zurich, Geneva, Lugano and Zug. Offering high-quality and innovative advice and representation to clients, the firm has a special focus on financial services, life sciences, technology, energy, real estate, media, entertainment and sports, and transport and logistics. It boasts a strong performance across the board, with 46 listings across 23 practice areas.
Baker & McKenzie is one of the largest law firms in Switzerland, with offices in Geneva and Zurich. It prides itself on the cost-efficient and innovative solutions that it provides to clients, whilst helping them to effectively promote their interests and reach their business objectives. As an international firm with offices around the world, it is able to deliver “outstanding legal support” to clients, on domestic, international and multijurisdictional matters.
Homburger is a leading independent corporate law firm in Zurich with an excellent reputation both domestically and internationally. The breadth and depth of the firm is exhibited in the fact that it is recognised in 22 practice area chapters in our research, with particular strength in disputes resolution, capital markets, M&A, banking and tax law.
Created through a merger in 2015, Kellerhals Carrard has five offices in Switzerland: Basel, Berne, Lausanne, Sion and Zurich. The firm has a full-service offering with a particular focus on the financial services, life sciences, information, technology and media, sport and entertainment, energy, real estate/construction and retail sectors.
Lalive is an independent, internationally orientated law firm located in Geneva and Zurich. The firm is seen as “a world leader” in international commercial arbitration and, in this regard, it is “virtually unmatched” in the skill and depth of its practitioners.
As the country’s largest independent law firm, Lenz & Staehelin hold a prominent position within the Swiss legal market. Its offices in Geneva, Zurich and Lausanne provide clients with comprehensive legal services on a range of legal matters, with particular strengths in corporate and finance law. The firm prides itself on its specialist knowledge and ability to deliver comprehensive and practical solutions to clients. This year, 39 individuals garner 73 listings across 25 practice areas.
Meyerlustenberger Lachenal is one of Switzerland’s largest and most reputable international law firms. With offices in Zurich, Geneva, Zug, Lausanne and Brussels, the firm comprises over 80 lawyers, forming a strong team of specialists providing innovative and solution-focused services. This is reflected in its 23 listings across 12 different practice areas.
Since its establishment in 1936, Niederer Kraft & Frey has built a strong profile in Switzerland and internationally for its market leading legal advice. Located in the heart of the banking and financial district in Zurich, the firm is well known for its proven track record of advising clients in the sector.
Pestalozzi Attorneys At Law is the longest-established of the major Swiss law firms, with its origins going back to 1911. As a full service firm with offices in Geneva and Zurich, the firm supports international and domestic clients with all aspects of Swiss law, and prides itself on its “integrity, high quality standards, and proven effectiveness.” With an unparalleled reputation for being one of Switzerland’s top law firms, Pestalozzi Attorneys at law remains adaptable in the market with 27 lawyers listed across 16 practice areas in this edition.
Schellenberg Wittmer is one of Switzerland’s leading business law firms, offering clients a full service with a roster of senior practitioners who are often considered leaders in the market. This year the firm garners an impressive 67 listings across 25 practice areas, with the firm performing particularly strongly in the fields of dispute resolution, asset recovery, corporate tax, private client and business crime defence.
Vischer is a leading provider of business, tax and regulatory law advice in Switzerland. Over the years it’s developed a “fantastic reputation” in the market, especially for its work in dispute resolution, energy and environment, and transport. In this year’s edition the firm received 18 listings across 15 practice areas.
With a legal team of 150 experts, as well as approximately 100 employees in support functions, Walder Wyss is one of Switzerland’s most prominent law firms. With offices in Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Berne, Lausanne and Lugano, the firm is able to provide “first-rate” services to national and international clients in all language regions of the country. The firm prides itself on the high quality of its practitioners, its creativity and its multi-disciplinary teams, all of which allow them to provide quick and reliable services to clients. Walder Wyss maintains its position this year as a leading Swiss firm, with 58 listings across 21 practice areas.
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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.