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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Claus von Wobeser

Claus von Wobeser

Von Wobeser y Sierra SCPaseo de los Tamarindos 60, 4th FloorBosques de las LomasMexico CityMexico05120

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Claus von Wobeser is a distinguished practitioner who is held in high esteem as “a leading figure internationally”. He has vast experience in international arbitration and stands out as “the clearest mind in Mexico”.

Questions & Answers

Claus von Wobeser is founding partner and head of the dispute resolution practice of Von Wobeser y Sierra. He has acted in more than 150 international arbitration proceedings, as either arbitrator or counsel, as per the rules of the ICC, ICDR, LCIA, HKIAC, UNCITRAL, NAFTA, ICSID and ICSID Additional Facility, among others. He frequently participates as an expert in arbitration proceedings, and as an expert on Mexican law before US and English courts. Additionally, his experience includes having acted as ad hoc judge of the Inter-American Human Rights Court and as conciliator in ICSID proceedings.

What attracted you to a career in dispute resolution?

I started my career as a transactional M&A lawyer. At the beginning of the 1980s, however, I became a member of the ICC Court of Arbitration, where I discovered the importance of arbitration and noticed that ICC international arbitration was non-existent in Latin America. I started acting as arbitrator in disputes that were unrelated to Mexico and began promoting dispute resolution in the region with Yves Derains and Bernardo Cremades. My experience as arbitrator led me to start undertaking party representation in disputes as counsel.

What challenges did you face when setting up your own firm?

When I started the firm in 1986, with Maclovio Sierra and Javier Lizardi, there was no arbitration work in Mexico and the firm focused on transactional work. In the early 1990s, however, Mexico adopted the UNCITRAL Model Law, NAFTA entered into force and profound reforms to the judicial system took place, which led to an independent judiciary and an increase in foreign investment. This changing landscape led me to found our dispute resolution practice.

To what extent is sector-specific knowledge on the part of the arbitrator important when handling a dispute?

Sector-specific knowledge is very important as both an arbitrator and counsel. Most disputes I have heard as arbitrator have been related to infrastructure, construction, oil and gas, and electricity, and this has equally led our work as counsel at the firm to strongly develop in these areas.

How is third-party funding currently affecting litigation practice in Mexico?

There is virtually no third-party funding yet.

To what extent, if any, do you think changing trade relationships with the US will impact the Mexican arbitration market?

The new USMCA will affect arbitration in Mexico and the region. In particular it will impact investor-state arbitration, since the new dispute settlement mechanism provided in Chapter 14 drastically reduces the possibility of hearing claims before arbitral tribunals for investors in many sectors. However, commercial private disputes will remain unaltered and it is anticipated that these disputes will increase in number due to the economic climate.

Where, in your opinion, does the future of investment arbitration lie?

I am a strong proponent of investor-state arbitration as the preferred mechanism for resolving investment disputes. The current system, in my opinion, works well and like any system could benefit from a few improvements. However, I would caution walking away from the current system towards a multilateral investment court system (eg, contemplated in CETA and several other treaties). In my experience, this change would deviate the future of investment arbitration from its right track.

How would you like to see the firm develop over the next five years?

I see the firm consolidating its position as leader in complex disputes in Mexico and continuing as leader in the market in arbitration, both for our work as arbitration counsel as well as for the work of several of our partners acting as arbitrators in international and domestic disputes. As counsel we have 30 lawyers dedicated to dispute resolution (including Mr Guillermo Ortiz Mayagoitia, former chief justice of the Supreme Court) and we will continue to grow our partnership in this area.

You have had a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?

I would like to communicate to the world Mexico’s notable development as an arbitration seat, in both its legislation and its judiciary, and to encourage this location such that it becomes a globally renowned, reliable arbitration seat. I would also like to channel my experience in Mexico more broadly towards developing commercial arbitration in the Latin American region.

Thought Leaders - Arbitration 2020

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Claus von Wobeser is “a very seasoned practitioner”, report interviewees, who further deem him "one of the most sought-after arbitrators – and rightly so!"

Questions & Answers

Claus von Wobeser is founding partner and head of the dispute resolution practice of Von Wobeser y Sierra. He has acted in more than 200 international arbitration proceedings, as either arbitrator or counsel, as per the rules of the ICC, ICDR, LCIA, HKIAC, SCC, UNCITRAL, NAFTA, ICSID and ICSID Additional Facility, among others. He frequently participates as an expert in arbitration proceedings, and as an expert on Mexican law before US and English courts. Additionally, his experience includes having acted as ad hoc judge of the Inter-American Human Rights Court and as conciliator in ICSID proceedings.

What have you enjoyed about working as an arbitrator and counsel throughout your career?

Working as counsel and arbitrator are distinct yet equal pleasures. As counsel I have been honoured to build strong relationships with inspiring leaders across a variety of industries, and it is my privilege to protect their interests in Mexico and overseas. Acting as pro bono counsel, too, is deeply gratifying on a personal level and is an area of service that I am proud that my firm embraces. As an arbitrator, I have been proud to uphold the rule of law and assist in developing standards that, if applied and upheld, might help to make Latin America an even more stable and welcoming investment environment.

How do you develop and maintain sector-specific knowledge to effectively handle disputes?

I have had the benefit of developing my sector-specific knowledge over more than three decades of representative matters as both a transactional and disputes attorney within distinct sectors, and it is important to keep up to date with new developments. Additionally, I am fortunate to work among thought leaders across a variety of sectors within my full-service law firm. In particular, my partners in the dispute resolution group are also specialised in disputes in the energy sector (electricity, and oil and gas), infrastructure and contractual disputes in a wide range of industries, including, among others, automotive and consumer goods.

What do you make of the planned proposals for a multilateral investment court? 

I am a strong proponent of investor-state arbitration as the preferred mechanism for resolving investment disputes. The current system, in my opinion, works well and like any system could benefit from a few improvements. The multilateral investment court is a well-thought-out project; however, it will be faced with practical challenges and its execution will be difficult to achieve, given the wide-ranging positions countries and stakeholders need to agree on.

How have your roles in the ICC and the IBA enhanced your work in private practice?

My experience with the ICC has been central to my career. In fact, in my early career I was exclusively a transactional M&A lawyer. At the beginning of the 1980s, however, I became a member of the ICC Court of Arbitration, where I discovered the importance of arbitration and noticed that ICC international arbitration was non-existent in Latin America. I started acting as arbitrator in disputes that were unrelated to Mexico and began promoting dispute resolution in the region with Yves Derains and Bernardo Cremades. My experience as an ICC arbitrator led me to start undertaking party representation in disputes as counsel in the 1990s, following Mexico’s adoption of the UNCITRAL Model Law, NAFTA, and reforms to the Mexican judicial system. My experiences with the IBA arbitration committee have further helped me to forge valuable relationships with a broader range of leading attorneys across the globe, which is of great value to my firm’s cross-border work.

How important is it for senior practitioners to assist and mentor young arbitrators and counsel to further their careers?

Arbitration has evolved in Latin America only in the past 30 years, and I have been fortunate to play a central role in its elaboration within the region. To ensure effective thought leadership going forward it is vitally important that young practitioners can tap into and evolve from the experiences of past generations. To achieve this, I not only work particularly closely with the young arbitration practitioners at my own firm, but I also frequently act as mentor with Young ICCA, and I helped to establish the ICC postgraduate diploma in international commercial arbitration at the Escuela Libre de Derecho in Mexico City (with more than 900 graduates in Mexico and Latin America, including members of the judiciary: around 150 judges, magistrates from the federal court system that shape the resolution of disputes in these areas). 

Which key points would you highlight to promote Mexico as a potential arbitration seat to parties?

Mexico has adopted international standards in its arbitration laws. They are based on, and do not significantly diverge from, the UNCITRAL Model Law, and Mexico also implements the New York Convention. Mexican courts are respectful of arbitration agreements and the principle of competence-competence. Moreover, they tend to favour the enforcement of arbitral awards, save for cases of violations of due process. Finally, Mexico offers first-rate arbitral institutions to select from, including the ICC, the Arbitration Centre Mexico (CAM) and the Arbitration and Mediation Commission of the Mexico City Chamber of Commerce (CANACO).

If you could implement one reform in international arbitration, what would it be? 

International arbitration in general has become inefficient. Parties’ submissions are often redundantly long and accompanied by an extraordinary number of exhibits. This leads to the expectation of longer submission periods for opposing counsel, and lengthy hearings. I hope to see a rise in the practice of drafting concise pleadings and preliminarily disposing of issues at an early stage, to streamline arbitrations. 

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

Before establishing a firm, it is important to ascertain a stable income base and solid knowledge on a particular area of law. When we started in 1986, we were fortunate to have a selection of clients willing to retain us to handle their day-to-day corporate work. When we started our dispute resolution practice, too, I had already acted on international cases as arbitrator, which helped the firm to bring in big-ticket representative matters. 

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader
WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Claus von Wobeser is “a very seasoned practitioner”, report interviewees, who further deem him “one of the most sought-after arbitrators – and rightly so!”

Questions & Answers

Claus von Wobeser is founding partner and head of the dispute resolution practice of Von Wobeser y Sierra. He has acted in more than 200 international arbitration proceedings, as either arbitrator or counsel, as per the rules of the ICC, ICDR, LCIA, HKIAC, SCC, UNCITRAL, NAFTA, ICSID and ICSID Additional Facility, among others. He frequently participates as an expert in arbitration proceedings, and as an expert on Mexican law before US and English courts. Additionally, his experience includes having acted as ad hoc judge of the Inter-American Human Rights Court and as conciliator in ICSID proceedings.

What do you enjoy most about working on complex disputes? 

Complex disputes commonly involve the application of various – potentially conflicting – legal regimes, as well as highly technical, sector-specific matters across a variety of industries. This makes working on them particularly intellectually challenging and often strongly contested. I am continuously learning from the cases I am involved in, both as arbitrator and counsel. Further, where cases are highly complex it is common for the lawyers involved in these proceedings to be of the highest level. The analyses are accordingly deeper and more sophisticated, both technically and legally, making eventual success all the more satisfying.

What qualities make an effective arbitrator?

In my opinion, an arbitrator needs to be proactive and efficient when conducting a procedure, particularly if he or she is the president of the tribunal. However, this efficiency should never be at the expense of the parties. That is, an effective arbitrator must know when to be firm with the parties if needed (eg, not allowing them to file unnecessary submissions, in order to preserve order in a hearing), but always ensuring that they feel completely heard and that they have fully exposed their case. An effective arbitrator finds a balance between efficiency of the procedure, preserving the parties’ rights and resolving the dispute.

If you could implement one reform in international arbitration, what would it be?

International arbitration in general has become inefficient. Parties’ submissions are often redundantly long and accompanied by an extraordinary number of exhibits. This leads to the expectation of longer submission periods for opposing counsel, and lengthy hearings. I hope to see a rise in the practice of drafting concise pleadings and preliminarily disposing of issues at an early stage, to streamline arbitrations.

What more should be done to improve the transparency of arbitration proceedings?

For investment arbitration, it has been long discussed that transparency needs to improve and one of the key issues is the publicity of the awards. In fact, in the current ICSID amendment process transparency is one of the main objectives, so I am sure that after this reform is implemented, procedures should be more transparent. Regarding commercial arbitration, I think that proceedings should remain confidential because it’s one of the features that private parties usually seek when choosing arbitration to settle disputes.

Has covid-19 had an impact on commercial arbitration and litigation? Are parties willing to be flexible in procedure and approach?

The covid-19 pandemic has really forced the arbitration community to adapt to new technological tools and in general be more flexible in order to continue working on ongoing arbitration procedures. The latter has presented challenges for counsels wishing to continue defending their clients’ rights appropriately through these new communications means – for example, learning to interrogate witnesses online. From this point of view, adapting to these new realities and doing things differently could lead to positive changes in the practice.

What advice would you give to younger lawyers who aspire to one day be in your position?

I think it is important to specialise and have a solid base in a particular area of law. It helped me a lot to have been a transactional M&A lawyer first because, later in my arbitration practice, this allowed me to understand deeply the disputes related to transactions and the conflicts between shareholders, among other matters. In general, my main advice for young lawyers is that they must work very hard, and endeavour to grow and advance in their professional careers. Behind all success there is always a lot of effort involved, and this will give them confidence in their abilities. Finally, I recommend they conduct themselves honestly and modestly throughout their career. This will help them to have a solid and reliable reputation in any area of law.

Global Leader

Arbitration 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Claus von Wobeser is “a very seasoned practitioner”, report interviewees, who further deem him "one of the most sought-after arbitrators – and rightly so!"

Biography

Claus von Wobeser is managing partner and founder of the dispute resolution practice of Von Wobeser y Sierra.

He is renowned for his advocacy skills and strategic thinking in highly complex disputes both in litigation and arbitration proceedings.  Some of his landmark cases include acting as lead counsel to COMMISSA in a setting aside proceeding brought by PEMEX, getting the award recognised before US courts and acting as counsel to Anheuser-Busch in an ad hoc arbitration with an amount in dispute of US$1.5 billion obtaining a favorable award.

Mr von Wobeser has acted in over 150 international arbitration proceedings, either as arbitrator or counsel, as per the rules of the ICC, ICDR, LCIA, HKIAC, UNCITRAL, NAFTA, ICSID and ICSID Additional Facility, among others.

Mr von Wobeser has served as vice president of the International Court of Arbitration of the ICC, as co-chair to the IBA arbitration Ccmmittee, as president of the arbitration commission of the Mexican chapter of ICC and as member of the panel of arbitrators of ICSID and is currently member of the London Court of Arbitration, president of the Latin American Arbitration Association (ALARB),  among other designations.

His studies include a law degree (JD equivalent) from Escuela Libre de Derecho in Mexico City and a Doctorate of Law in international and European law studies from Université de Droit, d’Economie et de Sciences Sociales in Paris.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

National Leader

Mexico - Arbitration 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Claus von Wobeser is a long-standing figure in the arbitration market with decades of dedicated experience acting in international arbitrations.

Biography

Claus von Wobeser is founding partner and head of the dispute resolution practice of Von Wobeser y Sierra. He has acted in more than 150 international arbitration proceedings, either as arbitrator or counsel, as per the rules of the ICC, ICDR, LCIA, HKIAC, UNCITRAL, NAFTA, ICSID and ICSID Additional Facility, among others.

He frequently participates as an expert in arbitration proceedings and as an expert on Mexican law before US and English courts. Additionally, his experience includes having acted as ad hoc judge of the Inter-American Human Rights Court and as conciliator in ICSID proceedings. Mr von Wobeser has served as vice president of the International Court of Arbitration of the ICC; as co-chair to the IBA arbitration committee; and as president of the arbitration commission of the Mexican chapter of ICC. Currently, he is a member of the panel of arbitrators of ICSID; a member of the London Court of Arbitration; vice president of the Latin American Arbitration Association; and professor of arbitration for the ICC/Escuela Libre de Derecho annual arbitration course, among other designations.

Claus von Wobeser has a law degree (JD equivalent) from the Escuela Libre de Derecho in Mexico City; a doctorate of law in commercial and European law studies from the Université de Droit, d'Economie et de Sciences Sociales in Paris.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Claus von Wobeser has vast experience in commercial litigation, including representing clients in sophisticated IP and corporate governance disputes.

Biography

Claus von Wobeser is founding partner and head of the dispute resolution practice of Von Wobeser y Sierra. He has acted in more than 150 international arbitration proceedings, either as arbitrator or counsel, as per the rules of the ICC, ICDR, LCIA, HKIAC, UNCITRAL, NAFTA, ICSID and ICSID Additional Facility, among others.

He frequently participates as expert in arbitration proceedings and as an expert on Mexican law before US and English courts. Additionally, his experience includes having acted as ad hoc judge of the Inter-American Human Rights Court and as conciliator in ICSID proceedings. Mr von Wobeser has served as vice president of the International Court of Arbitration of the ICC; as co-chair to the IBA arbitration committee; and as president of the arbitration commission of the Mexican chapter of ICC. Currently, he is a member of the panel of arbitrators of ICSID; a member of the London Court of Arbitration; vice president of the Latin American Arbitration Association; and professor of arbitration for the ICC/Escuela Libre de Derecho annual arbitration course, among other designations.

Claus von Wobeser has a law degree (JD equivalent) from the Escuela Libre de Derecho in Mexico City; a doctorate of law in commercial and European law studies from the Université de Droit, d'Economie et de Sciences Sociales in Paris.

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