Renowned for its world-class banking services, its long-standing reputation for neutrality and its great ability to attract vast investment and business from around the globe, it is unsurprising that Switzerland remains home to one of the world’s most competitive legal markets. Unlike other European capital-centric hubs such as the UK and France, the Swiss legal market presents a devolved structure much closer to the German model. The majority of the work is conducted in the country’s two main financial and business centres, Zurich and Geneva, where over 80 per cent of those listed in this year’s edition are based. However, our listings include practitioners in over 20 cities across Switzerland, reflecting the decentralised nature of its market.
Despite its diverse nature, the Swiss market is relatively small in comparison to its European neighbours, France and Germany. Switzerland’s medium-sized market, coupled with the cultural and linguistic differences between its major cities, can create difficulties (or, in the words of one source, “a strategic nightmare”) for foreign firms looking to establish a prominent national presence. The Swiss legal market has traditionally been dominated by national firms, nine of whom comprise the top 10 firms featured in our research this year, illustrating that their entrenched position remains as steady as ever. Indeed, many of the lawyers that we spoke to during the course of our research cited other national players as their main source of competition.
Recent years have seen a lot of movement between national firms, as well as major names such as Wolfgang Peter and Paolo Michele Patocchi leaving big players to establish smaller, specialist outfits in various practice areas. However, the most significant development in the market over the past year came in October 2016, when Baker McKenzie hired a team of 10 lawyers from Froriep in a move designed to strengthen its corporate, banking and finance, intellectual property and competition practices. Indeed, it is the medium-sized firms who are currently struggling to find their place in the market, according to sources. With the ever-growing need to invest in technology and new software, and the cost that comes with it, there is concern as to whether this is something they can provide. Some firms such as Walder Wyss, who opened offices in Geneva and Lausanne in January 2016, have taken the opportunity to address this by expanding in size. It will be interesting to see how these firms will react to the increasing pressure to adapt, and what the future looks like for their business model.
Having just bolstered its Swiss offering, now totalling 130 lawyers in the country, it is unsurprising that Baker McKenzie continues to stand out as the only foreign firm that enjoys a significant position in the market. The presence of others in recent times has fluctuated. In 2015, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe established a new arbitration base in Geneva; and in May 2016, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan opened an office in Zurich, aimed at focusing on high-stakes international disputes and investigations. However, many foreign firms have recently exited the Swiss market, including Winston & Strawn who, after 22 years, closed down its Geneva operations. Sources have viewed the continued attention from international outfits extremely positively, noting that it is a great indication of how healthy, attractive and robust the market continues to be. Even so, they do not hesitate to highlight the continued strength and dominance of national firms.
The past few years have seen an expansion in dispute resolution practices throughout the country, as firms are looking to establish arbitration above all others as a core area of focus. As corporate and M&A work has slowed down, younger lawyers in particular are now seeing arbitration as a key growth area and an increasingly attractive practice in which to specialise. Indeed, our recent research seeking to identify the future leaders in the arbitration world placed Switzerland in the top four of jurisdictions to achieve the most nominations, with the country receiving almost 10 per cent of the total listings.
Many of the top Swiss firms seek to develop young talent to a high standard, often placing a strategic focus on promoting organic growth. However, many firms that we spoke to highlighted the particular challenges that they expect to face with the younger generation of lawyers. For instance, an increasing number of these lawyers are exploring the possibility of establishing their own boutique firms. In addition, the ever-increasing attractiveness of pursuing a career in-house has, according to sources, caused some concern regarding talent retention in private practice. Many younger lawyers are now favouring a more business-focused legal career to the more traditional path with the end goal of partnership, which according to sources, is long gone.
Although the Swiss market has experienced its fair share of movement over the last year, with entrants, lateral moves and exits, it would seem that the status quo is yet to be greatly disturbed. Indeed, the legal landscape has maintained a sense of stasis and stability, with well-established national outfits continuing to dominate. It will be interesting to see how the legal community will evolve over the coming year, and how it will adapt and face the challenges brought on by international players as well as an innovative and dynamic younger generation.
Switzerland remains a key location worldwide for major, high-value commercial arbitrations and, as a result, it maintains a superb standard of experienced arbitrators and dynamic arbitration counsel with expertise across a comprehensive range of industries and sectors. In all, 83 of the best are listed this year.
We recognise 27 leading lawyers who stand out for their exceptional work assisting clients with disclosure, freezing and seizure orders and recovery claims.
We highlight 43 leading lawyers in this chapter for their outstanding work in the banking sector, handling regulatory and transactional work on behalf of corporate clients and financial institutions.
We highlight 26 leading lawyers who stand out for their exceptional work representing companies, corporate officers and individuals in criminal litigation arising from their business activities.
This chapter identifies 36 notable practitioners who are known in the industry for representing and advising issuers, underwriters, investment banks, funds, REITs and other market participants on all aspects of capital markets transactions around the world.
This year we have selected 21 practitioners based on the exceptional standard of their practice under both Swiss and European law. They have been recognised for the breadth and depth of their expertise, which encompasses all aspects of competition law, and their experience representing high calibre clients in proceedings spanning a variety of industries and jurisdictions.
This chapter identifies 43 individuals with proven expertise in representing a range of clients including owners, contractors and subcontractors in both contentious and non-contentious work in Switzerland and abroad. Below we highlight the most highly regarded individuals.
In this year’s edition, 20 lawyers are listed for their expertise advising companies and their management on shareholder issues, directors’ duties as well as a range of other internal issues.
Fourteen leading practitioners are highlighted for their exceptional work handling matters concerning the legal immigration and naturalisation of skilled workers, and their dependants, on behalf of large corporate entities.
We highlight 54 practitioners this year who are recognised for their expertise in corporate tax law, advising companies, shareholders and financial institutions in issues of tax optimisation and regulatory matters.
Eight lawyers are recommended this year for their work in energy law, handling transactions, disputes, compliance and pricing matters across the oil and gas, renewables and mining sectors.
We feature 15 lawyers this year who are recommended for their environmental law expertise handling issues of water protection, waste management and pollution, as well as government and state regulation and compliance issues.
In this chapter, we recognise nine leading individuals for their top-tier work handling contentious and non-contentious franchise law issues, acting for both international and domestic franchisors and franchisees.
This chapter identifies 13 leading practitioners who have a proven track record of guiding public authorities through the transparency, fairness and competition rules across the public sector from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The individuals identified also act for clients on the other side of the procurement procedure, representing bidders during tenders, through the term of the contracts, as well as in reviews and disputes arising from the tender process.
This chapter features 27 leading practitioners highlighted for their work representing insurance underwriters, reinsurers, intermediaries and corporate insurers in contentious, contractual, regulatory and transactional matters.
We recognise 18 leading names who stand out for their top-tier work advising companies under investigation by regulatory authorities, as well as companies conducting internal investigations into potentially unlawful practices.
We identify 21 leading practitioners in this chapter, who are recommended this year for their expertise in investment management, advising on financing, management, organisational and regulatory issues.
We highlight 37 lawyers in this chapter for their expertise in labour and employment work, including group moves, benefits and compensation, reorganisations and regulatory and auditing matters.
We have identified 24 lawyers who have been recognised by peers for the calibre of their life science practice. Their areas of expertise span a range of subject areas and encompass both regulatory and litigation matters.
We list 46 practitioners in this chapter who are the leading names in the country for complex commercial disputes, involving both domestic and international companies.
The chapter identifies 35 leading practitioners who have a proven track record in handling big-ticket business combinations between large, publicly traded companies, as well as distinguished practitioners who specialise in the representation of private equity groups in transactional matters.
This chapter identifies 18 prominent lawyers practising as mediators in commercial proceedings across a range of different industries.
In this chapter, we highlight the 14 leading patents lawyers active in the Swiss market. These individuals have a proven track record of their work advising and representing clients in relation to their patent portfolios and patent litigation needs.
In this chapter, we recognise 61 of the country’s leading private client lawyers. The practitioners featured in this chapter have a proven track record assisting high net worth individuals, families, trustees, family businesses and charities in the areas of wills and succession planning, trusts and estates, residence and domicile, probate and charities.
In this chapter, we highlight 22 of the country’s leading trustees, private bankers, accountants and investment managers that service the private client industry.
We list four leading practitioners in this chapter this year.
This chapter identifies 19 outstanding lawyers who are experts in the field of insolvency and restructuring law, advising on a range of matters including rescue, reconstruction and insolvency procedures, financial restructurings, leveraged buyouts and liquidations, among many others.
Switzerland remains a major market for sports law, in no small part due to the presence of FIFA, the IOC, numerous international Olympic authorities and the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Entertainment law is also thriving as an active area of practice in the country. In total, 27 lawyers are listed for their expertise in these areas. The best of these are covered below.
We highlight 38 leading individuals who stand out for their exceptional work handling sector-related regulatory and compliance matters, dispute resolution, content rights and related M&A, outsourcing and licensing deals, data protection and e-commerce.
Our research has identified 15 excellent lawyers with substantial expertise in international trade matters as well as customs issues affecting clients in Switzerland and worldwide. Our listings this year continue to be dominated by international firms, most notably Sidley Austin and White & Case.
This year 31 individuals have been listed for their expertise in trademark prosecution, filings and litigation across a comprehensive array of sectors and industries.
In this chapter, we recognise 34 of the country’s premier transport specialists. These featured lawyers excel in aviation, shipping and rail law, regularly handling financing, logistics, transactions, insurance and crisis management matters.
We list 217 law firms in WWL: Switzerland 2017, demonstrating the breadth of expertise and variety of choice available to clients seeking representation. However, more than half of the 911 listings in this year’s guide are earned by lawyers from just 12 exceptional firms, all of which are profiled below, and together these firms form the backbone of the Swiss legal market. Of these, 11 are Swiss firms, with Baker McKenzie the only international firm to feature.
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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.