Christoph Pestalozzi is one of the keystones of the Swiss arbitration market who possesses over 20 years of experience as chairman, co-arbitrator and sole arbitrator in commercial disputes.
Christoph Pestalozzi is a partner in the arbitration and litigation team of Lustenberger Attorneys at Law. For the past 25 years, his main professional focus has been on international commercial arbitration as an arbitrator. He is active in institutional arbitration (ICC, Swiss Rules, VIAC, HKIAC, UNCITRAL, etc) and in ad hoc arbitration proceedings. He has handled well over 100 domestic and international arbitration proceedings in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region as chairman, co-arbitrator and sole arbitrator.
What was it about arbitration that made it attractive as a specialism?
As arbitrator, I like assessing and weighing legal positions in an international commercial context. My work as arbitrator is truly independent of the parties and impartiality is an absolute must in my line of work. Counsel work, on the other hand, means necessarily pleading subjective positions. I personally prefer to decide who is right or wrong. The possibility to stay “neutral” in a legal battle suits me very much and has fascinated me for many years.
Your disputes practice spans various practice areas. Which areas do you see becoming busier in the next five years?
An area that will become much busier in the near future in the world of arbitration is the IT industry. Digitalisation is the dominant factor and a megatrend, which will profoundly change almost every professional field. Disputes between customers and IT service providers are on a steep rise. Also, the amount of construction disputes will, in my opinion, increase, since the world has become one digitalised construction site!
Having handled over 100 arbitration proceedings in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, what are some of the key differences you have noticed in procedures and proceedings?
Based on my experience, I am under the impression that arbitration proceedings in the Asia-Pacific region are more driven by the initiative of the parties because of the heavier common law influence, whereas in Europe the arbitration panels tend to take a more active role and lead more top-down, because of the civil law background of continental-based European lawyers.
Does the rising backlash to globalisation threaten investor-state dispute settlement as we know it?
No doubt, investor-state dispute settlement is under significant political pressure – less so because globalisation is, given the worldwide trend back to national states, under scrutiny, but more because “private justice” involving states has had a lot of negative publicity lately (bribery issues, etc). Politicians plead for more regulatory control of such disputes. Investor-state dispute settlement is presently in a process of change, which is partly justified.
Should more be done to improve the transparency of arbitration proceedings?
Transparency is presently a big issue in international commercial arbitration. The arbitration institutions are clearly opening up more (see eg, the ICC in Paris) and confidentiality, traditionally often favoured by the parties, has become less important in certain types of cases and industries. In addition, the arbitration community would like more to rely on a solid body of public arbitral awards than having to rely almost exclusively on state court decisions.
What steps can the Swiss arbitration community take to remain competitive against other arbitration centres gaining prominence?
The Swiss arbitration community is still flying on a high level, and it has an exceptionally good reputation with a big reservoir of well-trained arbitrators. Recent legislative efforts try to catch the latest trends in the industry to extend even further the arbitration-friendliness of our country. For example, legal briefs, which are submitted to the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, should also be allowed in the English language. Furthermore, there are plans to introduce certain principles that have been developed by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, in its case law, into a modernised Swiss arbitration law.
If you could implement one reform in international arbitration, what would it be?
Proceedings in arbitration have become, over the years, more and more formalistic, lengthy and procedurally complicated. Arbitration should urgently find its way back to simplicity and to the bare essentials. The production of documents phase, for example, should be cut back to a reasonable level. Digitalisation should make proceedings less paper-driven.
How can senior arbitrators assist and mentor young practitioners to further their careers and transition them into leadership roles?
Senior arbitrators should, in a first phase of education, use young talents as administrative secretaries in real-life cases, take them to hearings and involve them in the more logistical aspects of the proceedings. Thereafter, young, promising lawyers should start learning the job as party counsel in dispute resolution teams. The next step of their career will automatically come with the first assignments as sole arbitrator, emergency arbitrator, etc, and they will thereby become the new future leaders in the arbitration community.
"Christoph is a vastly experienced and highly regarded arbitrator"
"He's a very well-prepared arbitrator who always does a great job"
"He's a tremendously well-prepared chairman with the talent to cheer up any crowd"
Christoph Pestalozzi is a partner in the arbitration and litigation team of Lustenberger Attorneys at Law. For the past 25 years, his main professional focus has been on international commercial arbitration as an arbitrator. He is active in institutional arbitration (ICC, Swiss Rules, VIAC, HKIAC, UNCITRAL, WIPO etc.) and in ad hoc arbitration proceedings. He has handled well over 100 domestic and international arbitration proceedings in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific region as chairman, co-arbitrator and sole arbitrator.
Christoph Pestalozzi's dispute resolution practice covers a broad range of additional fields, among them pre-arbitration/litigation strategic advice and representation of parties in state court proceedings. He has extensive experience mainly in the areas of international sales, construction, IT, pharmaceuticals, agency/distribution, joint ventures and corporate law.
Christoph Pestalozzi is published in the areas of arbitration, contracts and corporate law. He is a former chair of the International Bar Association's committee on civil litigation and has lectured on torts law at the University of Zurich. He has organised and chaired many panels at conferences and is a member of various international arbitration organisations.
Christoph Pestalozzi graduated from the University of Zurich in 1977 (Dr iur) and was admitted to the Zurich Bar in 1979. He holds a master’s in comparative jurisprudence (MCJ) from NYU School of Law (1982). He is fluent in German, English and French.
Lustenberger Attorneys is a leading Swiss dispute resolution boutique.