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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Franz Schwarz

WilmerHale49 Park LaneLondonEnglandW1K 1PS
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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

Questions & Answers

Mr Schwarz has been involved in over 250 arbitrations as both counsel and arbitrator, and has extensive experience with arbitral practice, procedure and advocacy, in both civil and common law systems in Europe, Asia, the Americas and Africa. Mr Schwarz has particular experience with corporate, contractual, joint venture and shareholder disputes in the energy, infrastructure, pharma, oil and gas, telecommunications, finance, media, trade and other sectors. Mr Schwarz currently serves on the board of the Swiss Arbitration Association (ASA), and as vice president of the International Arbitral Centre in Vienna.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION?

There is no other field that has it all: the intellectual challenge, and emotional joy, of engaging with the most interesting people on the widest possible range of issues in all kinds of industries, across continents and cultures. It is a privilege to be practising in this field.

HOW DOES YOUR CIVIL LAW BACKGROUND ENHANCE YOUR ARBITRATION PRACTICE?

There are some 150 civil law systems in the world, as opposed to some 80 common law countries. Having a civil law background is a very good starting point for a global practice. But I think my real asset is being a civil lawyer who has practised for over 20 years in England at a US firm: being able to integrate concepts from both systems makes all the difference.

YOU FREQUENTLY ACT AS BOTH ARBITRATOR AND COUNSEL. HOW DOES YOUR EXPERIENCE IN EACH ROLE HELP YOUR APPROACH TO THE OTHER?

While there are some issues with dual-role in investment work, it should be mandatory for arbitration lawyers to see both sides of the room. It is axiomatic that being an arbitrator makes you a better advocate, in that you develop a keener sense of what ultimately drives the decision-making. But I think the opposite perspective is equally important: arbitrators who have done counsel work have a greater degree of sympathy and judgement for the realities of the process and may be better able to relate to the clients as the ultimate users of the process. You have to have been in the trenches to appreciate the pressures of business and in-house lawyers.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ARBITRATION COUNSEL LOOKING TO BEGIN PRACTISING AS AN ARBITRATOR?

Do good work. It always pays off, and it is the best business development.

OUR RESEARCH INDICATES AN UPTICK IN WORK FROM INDUSTRIES NOT TRADITIONALLY ASSOCIATED WITH ARBITRATION, SUCH AS FINANCE AND PHARMA. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS DRIVING THIS TREND?

I agree with this perception. I have, in particular, seen a significant increase in the pharma industry. This is not surprising to me, only perhaps that it has taken so long: pharma is a truly global business that benefits greatly from all the advantages of arbitration. And it is not only big pharma; there are a lot of smaller and medium-sized businesses which may hold valuable IP that they need to protect or, is the subject of a contested transaction.

HOW HAS COMPETITION IN THE LEGAL MARKET DEVELOPED, SINCE YOU FIRST BEGAN PRACTISING?

It is a different world. When I started 20 years ago, it was a small market, with only very few firms having a truly global arbitration capacity. Now every international, regional and local firm has an arbitration group. But competition is a good thing, and there has been a lot of knowledge transfer to both smaller players and parts of the world that have traditionally not been service providers in the field.

AS VICE CHAIR OF THE FIRM’S INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION PRACTICE, WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES IN ITS DEVELOPMENT OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?

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Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader
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