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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Bettina Knoetzl

Bettina Knoetzl

KNOETZLHerrengasse 1ViennaAustria1010
Watch interview with Bettina Knoetzl

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

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. ​

Questions & Answers

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.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader
WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

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.

Questions & Answers

Bettina Knoetzl is a passionate trial lawyer with 25 years’ experience in litigating and settling most critical disputes. She has tried, won or settled thousands of high-stake cases. Bettina heads the litigation practice at Knoetzl, an elite, go-to disputes, asset recovery and white-collar crime firm in Vienna, Austria. She is active in the IBA (chair of the litigation committee, 2016-2017) and was the first European to be recognised as a “Lawyer of the Year” in asset recovery.

What do you enjoy most about your role as a litigator?

Developing a laser-focused strategy together with the client and executing it, step by step, with a passionate team that enjoys the incremental victories as much as winning the whole battle. To me, litigation is like playing chess, involving strategic thinking, tactical moves, flexibility, smart adjustments where needed, and never losing sight of your goal. Or, in other words: the one who laughs last, laughs best. This has to be our client, working together with us.

What do clients look for in an effective litigator?

Someone who achieves the client’s goal with a minimum of strain. Effectiveness is not only about winning in the end, but also reaching the optimal outcome with a precise investment of resources. A lofty reputation in the market as a feared opponent, and respect from the court, are among the “tools” of a thoroughbred trial lawyer. They can save a lot of extra hours.

How have you seen technological advancements impact litigation proceedings since you began practising?

I started my career with a typewriter, and without email or internet. Now, forensic research is assisted by smart technologies. Austria has an electronic court filing system; we frequently “meet” via video conference; we work with shared data rooms and shared files; and we opportunely dictate into our smartphones. Basically, everything has changed.

What do you find most challenging about handling complex cross-border disputes?

Making sure that critical differences between the various systems surface. Once the difference becomes apparent, it can be addressed. But, if both sides have no clue that they are working with different assumptions, results can easily be flawed, and the overall strategy can be at risk due to an “unforced” error.

Have there been any changes to the enforcement of foreign judgments in recent years? Do you foresee any further changes?

The growing geographical reach of the EU has expanded the possibilities to enforce a European judgment significantly. Also, the speed of enforcement proceedings within the EU has increased. However, more needs to be done. For example, Austria is still one of the countries where US judgments are not enforced. We hope that future US presidents will find it beneficial to join forces with the EU and pave the way to a more global effect of US and EU judgments. For arbitral awards, the New York Convention works extremely well. We should strive to implement a similar global reach for official court judgments.

What role are you currently seeing third-party funding playing in litigation?

Third-party funding has become a staple of litigation. For disputes involving higher amounts, funders will continue to play a significant role. Law societies need to be mindful of the circumvention of long-lasting ethical borders, such as the “quota litis” prohibition in many civil law-based countries. Sharing a portion of the proceeds, with the person taking the whole financial risk, is apparently not against our current mores. However, we should maintain a clear separation between the financing businesses and lawyering services, or at least create a duty of transparency, where interests are mixed and conflicts are possible.

In your view, how competitive is the legal market in Austria at present? How has this changed since the start of your career?

In 2020, the number of lawyers admitted to the Vienna Bar exceeded the number of lawyers admitted in the rest of Austria (outside Vienna). This shows that the market in Vienna has become more competitive. This trend will likely continue. From a more global perspective, we are still in the lucky position that not every global law firm is represented in Vienna. A highly specialised firm such as Knoetzl, with a laser focus on litigation, disputes and white-collar crime services, is well positioned to be in constant demand.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own firm?

Carefully evaluate the demands of the market on the one hand, and your own capabilities on the other hand. Provided you can fill a market gap with what you bring to the table, as Knoetzl was able to do, I strongly advise you wait no longer. Just do it! It is the best thing you can do – for your clients, your employees, the market and yourself. And, as hard and challenging it might be, this purely entrepreneurial work it is rewarding in so many ways. Chief among them, it is great fun.

Global Leader

Asset Recovery 2019

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

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. ​

Biography

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.
WWL Ranking: Recommended
WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Bettina Knoetzl is held in high esteem for her “excellent knowledge” of product liability and contentious proceedings in the life sciences sector.

Biography

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).

Litigation 2019

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

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.

Biography

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).

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