Christian Oetiker is a proven litigation and arbitration specialist. He acts before courts and arbitral tribunals and sits as arbitrator. He studied at the University of St Gallen and the London School of Economics, and has expertise in economic issues. His branch focus includes finance (including ISDA Master Agreements), pharma/chemical and aviation. Christian publishes and speaks regularly. He is a member of the SCAI Arbitration Court and the board of the Swiss Arbitration Association (ASA).
What attracted you to a career in law?
Law is applying rules to facts. I was fascinated by this task: both the gathering of the facts and the identification of the applicable rule. Today, as a litigator, I enjoy being able to dig deep into cases. Considering in-depth questions you had not thought of before and finding the appropriate solution is the elixir of my professional life.
What qualities make for a successful litigator?
One of the core competencies of a successful litigator is the ability to distil complex cases into digestible arguments. Furthermore, a successful litigator remains open-minded and does not draw premature conclusions from the facts as they appear. Rather, he or she has the persistence to investigate the factual background in detail. Once the facts have been established and conclusions have been drawn, he or she is able to persistently pursue the thread of the case and has the tools and empathy to convince others of his or her views.
How has the role of a litigator changed since you started your career?
Traditionally, Swiss attorneys had a relatively broad practice. Since I started in 1999, many attorneys have developed a more focused practice. Dispute resolution and advocacy have been recognised as a speciality. At the same time, we are often faced with complex topics. To deal with them, we need to team up with specialists from other teams. For example, I was recently involved in a number of cases on derivative agreements governed by the ISDA Master Agreement. The collaboration with our banking attorney was an essential element of these cases.
How does Vischer stand out from its competitors in the market?
In general, Vischer is structured in a way that enables us to help our clients in the best possible ways. We are not segregated specialist practices, but one team. Whenever needed, we can easily combine our expertise to benefit the clients.
The Vischer dispute resolution team sees dispute resolution as both an art and a craft. We master both the procedural craftwork and the art of strategic advocacy. Our advocacy is bespoke. One strength is that we take positions, even on difficult questions, and do not shy away from making simple and clear recommendations. International disputes make optimum use of our multilingual team’s strengths.
A 2018 report by the Swiss Federal Audit Office says more needs to be done to combat corruption in the country. Do you agree that corruption is a growing issue? What steps can be taken to counter it?
While corruption was always an issue, I agree that awareness of the problem and the necessity to fight it have increased. I am taking an active role and so, in February 2019, I was one of the organisers of the ASA Conference on Arbitration and Corruption. It is a complex topic at the edge of civil and criminal law.
What effect is increased specialisation and the proliferation of boutique firms having on the Swiss legal market?
The proliferation of boutique firms illustrates the tendency of Swiss lawyers to have a more focused practice. This tendency leads to an improvement in the quality of the services. I am convinced that big Swiss law firms deliver top-level work, when compared to the international competition.
What advice would you give to younger practitioners hoping to be in your position one day?
Disputes are a great area to focus on. At the same time, it is very useful as a litigator to have in-depth knowledge and practical experience on some issues of substantive law. When I started my career, I had a broader practice. For example, I was involved in the incorporation of companies, I drafted shareholders’ agreements, and I negotiated derivative agreements. I was heavily involved in Vischer’s work for the new Swiss air carrier from 2001 onwards and was exposed to almost every aspect of the aviation industry. I am still very much reaping the benefits of such experiences in my daily dispute life.
You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
I am very happy that you have identified me as a Thought Leader. So far, I have used my leadership qualities in my cases and to organise conferences. In the future, it would be a good challenge to apply these skills for the general benefit of our profession.