ao link
Who's Who Legal
Who's Who Legal
Menu
Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

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

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.

Describe your career to date. 

I started my career as a corporate lawyer before primarily focusing on dispute resolution. In my arbitration practice, I appear as arbitrator and counsel in complex cases seated around the world, particularly in the fields of construction, infrastructure and energy. I also regularly appear in investor-state disputes in Latin America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. As counsel, I frequently represent domestic and multinational clients in contract-based disputes against agencies or entities owned by the Mexican government. I also participate as a legal expert in arbitration proceedings and before foreign courts. 

What challenges do parties bringing claims face at the moment? How can these issues be solved? 

Covid-19 has forced the arbitration community to adapt the way arbitrations are conducted and the manner in which parties, courts and arbitral institutions communicate with each other. Novel case management techniques have been implemented to ensure the fairness and efficiency of proceedings. The main challenges that parties are now facing pertain to remote hearings, such as cross-examining witnesses and experts remotely and presenting certain types of evidence (e.g. site visits/inspections). However, these challenges can be overcome if there is sufficient dialogue between the parties and the tribunal with the aim of finding an effective solution for all parties, as well as implementing prudent case management techniques. 

Have you found that cash flow issues are stopping parties from bringing claims? 

As covid-19 grew into a pandemic, many local courts - particularly in Latin America – suspended their work. I think we need to wait to have more data on how many arbitrations were in fact initiated to see if this has led to an increase or not in the use of arbitration. I would also anticipate an increase in disputes related to the effects of government measures that have been taken in response to the covid-19 crisis. 

To what extent can virtual hearings be relied on to decide high-stakes multibillion-dollar cases between parties? 

In my experience, remote hearings can be held very successfully. However, tribunals must, in concert with the parties, undertake considerable advanced planning, coordination and organisation, including the issuance of clear rules for the conduct of the hearing and technological testing to reduce any risks of party inequality. Since the beginning of this crisis, arbitral institutions have already published practical guidance in this regard. 

What procedural issues do you see arising from COVID-19 where the majority of participants continue to live under lockdown? 

Covid-19 has caused many hearings to be postponed. Considering the inability to foresee for how long the crisis, along with applicable travel and government restrictions, will last, there exists a potential conflict between ensuring the efficiency of the procedure and protecting the parties’ right to be heard. Ordering remote hearings is presently a particularly practical procedural solution, however tribunals must be vigilant of a broad range of due process concerns. Therefore, I think that the procedural issues arising from covid-19 will mainly be related to ensuring a balance between a fair and efficient resolution of disputes. Cybersecurity concerns also remain an issue for the industry to address, particularly in cases of sensitive subject matter and/or where one party is opposed to a remote hearing.

How has your firm adapted to address the challenges caused by covid-19?

In my law firm, this crisis has led us to implement different forms of remote working that we had not previously explored. We have learned to adapt to new technologies and try to maintain the work routine and efficiency of our lawyers. One way we have accomplished this is by having regular team calls for reporting the assignments that each lawyer has. In that way, we can efficiently distribute the workload. I am not currently working in Mexico City and I realise that today’s technology can perfectly allow us to work anywhere, and this a great advantage of our legal practice. 

What makes your firm stand out from its competitors in the market? 

We are truly a full-service law firm, which enables us to offer cohesive and all-encompassing legal solutions to our clients. Moreover, we have always had an organic growth model, as we have always had a strong culture for training our young lawyers comprehensively, through intellectually challenging work. That way we retain regional and global leaders in both transactional and contentious practice areas. From an arbitration perspective, we offer a comprehensive understanding of Latin American civil law legal systems and the complex manners in which they operate.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? 

I believe that one of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever received is that no matter what age you are, you never stop learning as a lawyer, particularly as an arbitration practitioner. It is essential to keep abreast with developments in the field and to never think that experience alone is enough to deal adequately with a legal issue.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

Peers and clients say

“Claus is one of the towering figures in international arbitration”
“He has great analytical skills and is brilliantly charismatic”

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, PCA, 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 in arbitration?

I particularly enjoy having the opportunity to work both as arbitrator and counsel. As counsel I have been honored 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. As an arbitrator, I am proud to uphold the rule of law assisting in developing standards that, if applied and upheld, they might help to make Latin America even more stable and welcoming investment environment. I am honoured to contribute to the development of international arbitration in the region.

What skills are required for arbitrating in different seats, and how does your experience on this front enhance your practice?

Usually, the seat of the arbitration does not affect the ability of an arbitrator. During my career, I have sat in many tribunals with different applicable laws to the arbitration and seats, and usually the parties provide all the legal elements necessary to consider to resolve the case. For instance, providing expert reports in law. However, I think experience in conducting arbitration proceedings is key to be able to arbitrate in different seats and also in some specific sectors such as energy, oil and gas, infrastructure, construction, etc. My experience acting as arbitrator has allowed me to act in cases in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, United States, Latin America and Europe.

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, as well as financing considerations of the whole court system. 

Leading arbitral institutions, including the ICC and LCIA, have recently revised their rules, with other institutions to follow. What impact do you expect these changes will have on arbitration practice?

Arbitration rules have to keep up with the practice needs that are emerging. For example, the new ICC rules expressly provide that hearings can be validly held virtually. Before, they were silent, so the doubt existed on whether the parties could annul an award based on the sole fact that the hearing was conducted virtually. Now, under the new ICC rules such issue is resolved. Also, to promote arbitration efficiency, the new rules provide several amendments, such as allowing joinder of additional parties after the constitution of the tribunal. The LCIA new arbitration rules also provide arbitrators with tools to expedite proceedings, such as early dismissal or limiting the length or content of any written statement. I expect that these new amendments will help the arbitration proceedings to be conducted in a more efficient manner. However, arbitrators should remember that there is also a duty to the resolve the case properly, studying and analysing it carefully.

How has the arbitration market demonstrated its resilience in the face of challenges posed by covid-19?

I think the arbitration market was not affected severely by covid-19, but it was instead transformed. In my experience, a lot of arbitrations continue to be conducted but in a virtual format. I, personally as arbitrator and counsel, had a lot of virtual hearings last year and worked in a complete virtual format with very positive results. For example, the ICC recorded a total of 946 new arbitration cases in 2020, the highest number of cases registered since 2016. 

How is the generational shift changing legal practice at your firm? What do younger lawyers do differently?

Younger lawyers have an advantage working with technology and have adapted quickly to work in a home office format. A radical change with regards to technology is already happening and has certainly been accelerated with the coronavirus pandemic. I believe younger lawyers could continue helping the firm to adapt even more. However, in my law firm, this crisis has led us to already implement different forms of remote working with mostly positive results.

What professional challenges are you anticipating throughout the coming few years, and how do you intend to navigate them?

I expect the coronavirus pandemic will continue to pose new challenges regarding technology issues, for example, cybersecurity concerns and protection of confidential data. Additionally, new arbitrations could start based on the effects of government measures that have been taken in response to the covid-19 crisis. Thus, professionally, new questions will continue to pop up and I believe that discussion and a comparative analysis on how other practitioners have dealt with these could help navigate these new challenges.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in arbitration?

Get involve within the arbitration community, for example, become member in different arbitration associations and actively participate in them. This will help to forge valuable relationships with a broader range of leadings arbitration practitioners across the globe. Such connections could lead to future appointments both as counsel or arbitrator. Also, I would say that a sector-specific knowledge could help understand in a deeply level the disputes related to such sectors. Additionally, I will say that you never stop learning as an arbitration practitioner. It is essential to keep abreast of developments in the field. Finally, I highly recommend developing an understanding of basic business and financial notions to properly comprehend, for example expert reports on damages or the business-like nature of a contract. 

Thought Leaders - Mexico - Arbitration 2021

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Claus von Wobeser is “highly known and respected” among sources who recognise him as “a careful, thoughtful arbitrator with immense experience” and “superb judgement”.

Questions & Answers

Claus von Wobeser is the founding partner of Von Wobeser y Sierra, SC. He is member of the firm’s executive committee and head of the dispute resolution practice. 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. Mr Von Wobeser 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.

Have you identified any recent trends in the practice of international arbitration?

Covid-19 has caused many hearings to be postponed. Considering the unforeseeable aspect of the length of the crisis and the consequent government restrictions, there is a potential conflict between ensuring the efficiency of the procedure and protecting the parties’ right to be heard. Remote hearings are presently a practical procedural solution, however, tribunals must be vigilant of a broad range of due process concerns. Therefore, I think that the procedural issues arising from covid-19 will mainly be related to ensuring a balance between a fair and an efficient resolution of disputes. Also, cybersecurity concerns remain an issue for the industry to address, particularly in cases of sensitive subject matters and/or where one party is opposed to a remote hearing.

How has the arbitration practice been impacted by covid-19?

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the arbitration community to adapt to new technological tools and, in general, to be more flexible in order to continue working on the ongoing arbitration procedures. We must recognise that it has been challenging for counsels to continue defending their clients’ rights appropriately through these new communications means, for example, learning to cross-examine 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 is the one thing you have learned during the coronavirus pandemic which will stay with you in the new normal?

Flexibility and capacity to adapt so we modernise the way we work. Covid-19 has forced the arbitration community to adapt the way arbitrations are conducted, and the manner that parties, courts and arbitral institutions communicate with each other. Novel case management techniques have been implemented to ensure the fairness and efficiency of proceedings. The main challenges that parties are now facing pertain to remote hearings, such as cross-examining witnesses and experts remotely and presenting certain types of evidence (eg, site visits/inspections). However, these challenges can be overcome if there is sufficient dialogue between the parties and the tribunal with the aim of finding an effective solution for all parties, as well as implementing prudent case management techniques.

You are renowned internationally as an arbitration practitioner. How are you ensuring your legacy continues with the next generation of arbitration partners in your firm?

Throughout my career, I have made it a priority to mentor and work closely with both the partners and associates of our firm. My legacy will be to leave a firm that is composed of a strong team of diverse and world-class talent and led by a group that shares our current values of excellence and integrity. 

Right now, we have a robust team of five dispute resolution partners at the firm, who are deeply involved in the arbitration scene in international and regional organisations. They are highly experienced practitioners in the field. We have five partners, three of counsel and a group of more than 30 lawyers dedicated to dispute resolution and continue to attract and develop younger lawyers in order to ensure a deep bench of top talent. To transcend we also require a conscious effort to prioritise and accelerate diversity and inclusion as a pillar of our growth.

How have you committed to diversity and inclusion in arbitration? 

Although we recognise there is more work to do, as well as the need to accelerate the pace of change, we have fostered a diverse team at the firm, including in our arbitration group. We have an exceptional woman leader who has worked in arbitration for more than 15 years. Additionally, we have several other women that are upcoming talents in our arbitration group. In 2016 we signed the Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge to promote more women who practise arbitration. We also have colleagues, at all levels of the firm, that are part of the LGBT community. Our team is composed of people from different ethnicities, nationalities, religions, perspectives and backgrounds. We are committed to being a workplace where everyone feels accepted, respected and welcomed, so we all can be our true selves.

If you were asked to share advice with young lawyers working in arbitration, what would be your key recommendations?

Keep learning, always. I believe that one of the best pieces of advice is that no matter what age you are, you never stop learning as a lawyer, particularly as an arbitration practitioner. It is essential to keep abreast of developments in the field and to never think that experience alone is enough to deal adequately with a legal issue. 

What makes the arbitration practice at Von Wobeser y Sierra different from your competitors?

Our team and our experience in the field. We believe that the depth and breadth of our arbitration practice is unparalleled in Mexico. We have the deepest and most talented bench of talent and have participated in more arbitration cases than any other firm in the Mexican market. 

We see ourselves as a top-tier, full-service law firm, with a solid and diverse team of world-class talent which enables us to offer cohesive and all-encompassing legal solutions to our clients. We develop long-lasting relationships with our clients and have a collaborative problem-solving approach.

Moreover, since we have grown organically, we have always had a strong culture for training our young lawyers comprehensively, through intellectually challenging work. This approach has allowed us to attract and develop individuals who have eventually grown into regional and global leaders in both transactional and contentious practice areas. 

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader
WWL Ranking: Recommended

National Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended
WWL Ranking: Recommended
Law Business Research
Law Business Research Ltd
Meridian House, 34-35 Farringdon Street
London EC4A 4HL, UK
© Law Business Research Ltd 1998-2021. All rights reserved.
Company No.: 03281866