Georg von Segesser is a key figure among Switzerland's arbitration specialists, highlighted for his "impartiality, independence, and experience as an arbitrator in complex commercial cases".
Georg von Segesser is an independent arbitrator who has acted as chairman, co-arbitrator, sole arbitrator and counsel in over 200 domestic and international commercial and investment arbitrations. His broad arbitration practice covers disputes related to joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, distributorships, oil and gas, construction, building and manufacturing contracts, service and cooperation agreements, and intellectual property rights.
Describe your career to date.
Having worked as partner for five years at Pestalozzi & Gmür, Zurich, I opened the firm that would later become Schellenberg Wittmer, together with Claus Schellenberg, in 1982. The firm merged with Brunschwig Wittmer in 2002 and grew successfully over the years to become one of the largest law firms in Switzerland, with a very accomplished litigation and arbitration practice. During that time, I practised litigation, corporate law and international arbitration, and acted as managing partner for several years. Gradually, my practice focused more and more on arbitration. In 2017, because conflicts of interest had increased, I opened von Segesser Law Offices, where I continue my practice focused on international arbitration, exclusively as arbitrator.
What did you find most challenging about entering arbitration?
Entering arbitration is a long-term endeavour that requires patience and perseverance, as well as appearing at conferences and publishing articles. As both counsel and arbitrator, success is founded on one’s reputation. Like anything solid, it takes time to grow – and a significant amount of patience and trust in the process.
How has the role of arbitrator changed since you started your career?
The role of the arbitrator has become much more proactive. Parties expect arbitrators to be flexible and open to their requests on the one hand; and, on the other hand, to act decisively and contribute actively to the efficiency of the proceedings. As for the cases themselves, the size of the case files has continuously increased, and arbitrators must be capable of digesting ever greater quantities of documents, submissions and reports.
How does von Segesser Law Offices distinguish itself from the competition?
We are a very small boutique with three lawyers and one assistant. We are unique in that we sit as arbitrators only. We distinguish ourselves from the competition by our strong reputation and experience with complicated multi-jurisdictional cases.
As founder of the firm, what are your main priorities for its development over the next five years?
To encourage and support the younger lawyers in their endeavours to further develop their careers as international arbitrators. Another priority lies with the further development of our technical and electronic tools to administer large international arbitration cases. I am also excited to be part of the continuing expansion of Zurich’s standing as an international arbitration hub.
What advice would you give to younger arbitrators hoping to one day be in your position?
Make yourselves known to the international arbitration community through presentation (orally and in writing) on interesting and breakthrough topics.
Looking back over your career, what has been your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement was the setting-up, as a co-founder, of Schellenberg Wittmer as one of the largest law firms in Switzerland. On a much smaller scale, I am proud that our arbitration boutique from the first day onward has been a great success.
Where, in your opinion, does the future of the practice area lie?
In the future, artificial intelligence may increase efficiency in arbitration practice. However, interpersonal and language skills in an international environment, analytical thinking and excellent knowledge of the law will always be necessary.
Georg von Segesser is described as "an outstanding arbitrator" who is well respected among peers, one of whom says he is "one of the best arbitrators I've ever seen".
Georg von Segesser practises as an independent arbitrator. He has acted as chairman, co-arbitrator, sole arbitrator and counsel in over 200 domestic and international arbitrations (ICC, ICSID, Swiss Rules, DIS, SCC, VIAC, LCIA, UNCITRAL and others) and as co-director of the Claims Resolution Tribunal for dormant accounts in Switzerland. He is an arbitrator of the Court of Arbitration for Sport. His arbitration practice covers a broad range of issues, among them disputes related to joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, investment treaties, distributorships, oil and gas, construction, building and manufacturing contracts, service and cooperation agreements, and intellectual property rights.
Georg von Segesser has authored publications on international arbitration, property and trust law, and cultural and art law. He is a member of the Swiss Arbitration Association, the ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR, the International Bar Association, the London Court of International Arbitration, the German Institution of Arbitration, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (fellowship), the International Centre for Dispute Resolution of the American Arbitration Association, and arbitration institutions in England, Austria, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, etc.
In 1971, Georg von Segesser graduated from Zurich University. After serving as a district court clerk (1971–1972), he worked as an associate and partner at Pestalozzi & Gmür in Zurich from 1973 until 1982, and as a foreign associate with Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts in New York from 1974 to 1975. In 1982, Georg von Segesser co-founded the law firm in Zurich which is now Schellenberg Wittmer Ltd, and became of counsel in 2015. In 2017, Georg von Segesser opened von Segesser Law Offices and continues to practise as an independent arbitrator.