Bettina Knoetzl, heads the litigation and white collar crime practices at Knoetzl, an elite, go-to disputes and asset recovery firm in Vienna, Austria. She was the first European to be recognised as “Lawyer of the Year” for asset recovery. Before founding Knoetzl, she created and grew the firm-wide disputes team at the largest firm in the region. Bettina is very active in the IBA, for which she chaired the litigation committee in 2016–2017.
What did you find most challenging about pursuing a legal career?
We have to be meticulous in our work at all times. Like a heart surgeon, the smallest mistakes can lead to horrible results. A trial lawyer often faces stressful, unexpected situations like those encountered in a hospital emergency room. Only the highest level of legal and factual knowledge, skill, preparation and dedication to the case can produce the optimal outcome. Creating and engaging a team where everyone buys into the high standards we require has proven to be a rewarding, yet constantly challenging task.
What keeps you motivated in your current role?
Our happy clients. The pleasure of guiding our clients through troubled waters – sometimes including the roughest waterfalls – to a calm lake where they focus again on what they do best: conducting their business. Reaching this calm lake together with the happy client has always been a big motivator for me.
What has been your most memorable case to date, and why?
Achieving a quick freeze of purloined assets and stopping their dissipation is always rewarding and memorable. However, the long and bloody fights in civil and criminal courts, which can be likened to a chess game, due to their need for the ultimately better strategy, might be more colourful to describe: one of these was a post-M&A dispute among former shareholders fighting over €60 million. After a protracted trial with a huge number of witnesses, and a judgment rendered in our favour, the opponent tried to challenge the presiding judge based on bias (in highly unusual timing). The challenge was dismissed, and our clients prevailed in the commercial litigation matter on all court levels. Both appeals, to the Court of Appeal and to the Supreme Court, were dismissed. However, our celebration of victory seemed to be fleeting: on August 25, a beautiful summer morning, my clients read the newspaper and learned from the front page that they had been under criminal investigation, accused of insider trading – now with a significant media bias against them. Eventually, a criminal trial was held in which we defended a certain number of these shareholders – who were uniformly acquitted. The prosecutor appealed and the favourable judgment was lifted. Again, in the second round, our clients were acquitted. When the verdict became binding – finally, after many years of fighting a tremendous legal war – the joy of our success was even greater.
In your opinion, what qualities make for a successful asset recovery lawyer?
A good lawyer is hands-on; provides practical advice; is creative and fast; and has great ideas for complicated problems, considerable legal background knowledge and a willingness to dig into details if needed.
How has the asset recovery market evolved in the past few years?
For more than a decade, asset recovery has been a largely underdeveloped discipline in the majority of Austrian law firms. However, especially with the investment of assets owned by Russians, Ukrainians and nationals of other Eastern European countries in Austria, this particular type of business has gained significant traction. We believe it will continue to grow and be a permanent part of the work of lawyers who enjoy practising across national boundaries.
As co-founder of Knoetzl, what are your main priorities for the firm’s development over the next five years?
To maintain the level of top-quality services and the reputation as the go-to shop for significant trial work and complex asset recovery matters in Austria.
What advice would you give to young female practitioners hoping to one day be in your position?
Everything that you do with joy, you do better, and it will be more satisfying to follow your dreams. Try to find a senior lawyer in your firm who is willing and able to be your mentor. Ask him/her for his/her help and advice and, provided it fits your own goals and dreams, follow it.
You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
Though one might not expect it from a trial lawyer, I make it my goal to make the world a better place to do fair business. I am tired of individuals in government who are not driven by doing the best for society but only by their own personal benefits. Trump, the Brexit discussion and scandals such the Austrian “Ibiza” affair show, and lead to, the fragile state of our western civilisation. I will continue my fight against corruption and hope it contributes to a better future.
The “excellent” Bettina Knoetzl is a "commercial and responsive practitioner” who stands out as one of Europe’s leading lights when it comes to asset recovery matters.
Bettina Knoetzl is praised by clients for her "excellent knowledge of the field". She stands out for her expertise on drug liability and medical implant claims.
Bettina Knoetzl is a founding partner at KNOETZL, a leading litigation and dispute resolution law firm, with a groundbreaking focus on trial work in civil and criminal courts and arbitral tribunals, business crime, compliance and corporate crisis management.
Bettina Knoetzl has 25 years’ experience in complex national and international disputes, and is currently and uniformly ranked as one of the leading litigation, dispute resolution and white-collar crime lawyers in Austria.
Bettina specialises in international and commercial litigation, focusing on defence of liability claims, especially for international pharmaceutical clients and other life sciences and significant healthcare providers, corporations in the real estate sector and in banking and finance, including financial derivatives. She has successfully defended clients in class action lawsuits, including one of Austria's largest civil cases, as well as in several collective actions against pharmaceutical companies and investor clients in well-known corporate and shareholder disputes. Bettina Knoetzl also provides legal counsel to significant government institutions.
Bettina Knoetzl is the immediate past co-chair of the litigation committee of the International Bar Association; the president of Transparency International – Austrian chapter; the exclusive Austrian representative of ICC FraudNet; and member of the advisory board of the ZBP Career Centre at Vienna University of Economics and Business. She teaches litigation and dispute resolution, including mediation, at the Austrian Lawyers’ Academy and she is ranked in the top tier in litigation and white-collar crime by leading international directories, including Chambers. She is currently recognised as a Thought Leader by Who's Who Legal in litigation and asset recovery and was named Lawyer of the Year in asset recovery at the 2017 Who's Who Legal Awards.
Bettina Knoetzl is a prominent figure in the Austrian market thanks to her adept handling of complex litigation across the banking, pharma and construction sectors.
Bettina Knoetzl is a co-founder and partner at KNOETZL, a leading firm in litigation, arbitration, alternative dispute resolution, business crime, compliance and corporate investigations. Bettina has 25 years’ experience in handling complex national and international disputes and is currently ranked as one of the leading litigation, asset recovery and white-collar crime lawyers in Austria.
Before founding the firm in 2016, Bettina developed the largest international litigation and dispute resolution practice in Austria and the contiguous region.
Bettina specialises in international and commercial litigation, focusing on business crime, investor protection, liability claims, corporate disputes, banking, insurance, investment funds and financial derivatives cases, and life sciences litigation. She has successfully defended against class action lawsuits, including Austria’s biggest civil litigation case to date, and represents corporate and investor clients in mission critical and well-known shareholder disputes. She is also called upon to provide critical legal counsel to significant government institutions.
Bettina is notably involved in the leadership of the litigation committee of the International Bar Association, including service as co-chair during 2016 through 2017. She is the president of the advisory board of Transparency International (Austrian Chapter), the Austrian representative of the ICC-FraudNet and member of the advisory board of ZBP, the career centre of the Vienna University of Economics and Business. She lectures at the Austrian Lawyers’ Academy in dispute resolution and has been ranked in the top tier for more than a decade in litigation and white-collar crime by national and leading international directories, such as Chambers and Partners and Who’s Who Legal (including being the first European to be named Lawyer of the Year in 2017 by Who’s Who Legal, in asset tracing).