Martina Arioli established her boutique law firm Arioli Law in 2013 in Zurich. Martina Arioli combines in-depth knowledge on complex contractual matters in outsourcing and IT projects with the experience of implementing such global projects as an in-house lawyer. She also provides comprehensive advice to companies in the IT industry on software development, licensing, technology-related transactions, IP and data protection and compliance, and employment law. She also regularly advises clients in the entertainment industry.
In what ways does Arioli Law distinguish itself in the market?
I am very passionate about what I do, and I only do what I am passionate about. I believe that this sparks enthusiasm in the people I work with. It is not only the clients who select me, I also select my clients. After having established my boutique law firm in 2013 as a one-woman show, I am today in the fortunate position to be able to say no if I believe a client is not a perfect fit. Thus, all my clients are my favourite clients in their own special way, and I believe they feel that they always come first. In contrast to partners at big law firms, I have no pressure of profit targets, no constraints of a strategic focus defined by others, and no peer pressure. Therefore, my approach to my clients’ projects is entirely relaxed – which in turn relaxes my clients. Admittedly, maintaining this standard may lead to considerable self-exploitation, given it requires hard work at a consistently high level at any time of day. But it is what my clients expect, and I aim to live up to that expectation.
How has your experience working in a major Swiss bank and insurance company enhanced your practice?
I know the pressure that a job at a large corporation can involve, and therefore I seek to unburden my clients of an additional workload. I let them focus on their job and, most importantly, I let them shine. I understand the environment of large corporations: I know how time-consuming company politics can be. I understand how to integrate tasks into the larger perspective of the corporation, rather than focus on the purely legal issues.
What is the most challenging part of advising parties on the implementation of global outsourcing and IT projects?
Large projects – in particular outsourcing projects – may entail substantial changes, and it is not necessarily a natural trait to embrace change and adapt quickly. So, beyond the legal work of contract drafting and negotiation, I also put a lot of effort into getting people on board to support the outsourcing project in a positive way. This may also mean having long discussions with people affected in various jurisdictions.
Further, outsourcing projects and large IT projects may be complex from a contractual point of view. By simplifying the contract structure and wording, and rendering it self-explanatory at all times, I can get non-lawyers on board from the outset. When my clients internalise the contract, they can later act independently without my legal support. This facilitates contract management during the life cycle of a project and saves my clients legal fees.
What advice would you give to practitioners looking to establish their own firm?
Establishing your own law firm is not a walk in the park. It means sacrifice, dedication and flexibility. You have to take care of a multitude of issues yourself that go beyond the actual legal work – and most of them are non-billable. A solid network is key. Networking is work too, so you have to make it as interesting and as much fun as possible. Make a realistic assessment of your capabilities (including networking capabilities) and seek a niche – the competition is fierce and, as it happens, the world is not waiting for you. However, going self-employed has so many upsides, in particular the freedom you gain by making your own decisions.
How do you anticipate the Swiss legal market changing in the next five years? How might this affect your practice?
In several recent cases the Swiss Supreme Court has adjudicated on the conflict of interest of law firms, which may restrict the business of big law firms and move clients to boutique firms, such as my practice – a shift that has already been noticeable in recent years.
Further, the deployment of software programmes in big projects can replace young lawyers and trainees. In addition, there is an increasing general expectation that legal advice will be at partner level. Understandably, clients are not willing to “pay” for the training of young lawyers. These two factors may make it increasingly difficult for young lawyers to gain the work experience they require.
What is the most memorable case you have been a part of, and why?
Of course, every deal I help to get to signing in an efficient manner pleases me. One of the most memorable cases was when a large company wanted to acquire a client of mine, a successful platform service provider. Rather than pushing a standard acquisition through I suggested a deal in which a duplicate of the platform source code was sold to the large company in order for them to run it in parallel to my client. Thanks to this transaction, my client still runs the most successful platform in Switzerland (and the sum paid has facilitated their business considerably) whereas the acquirer has tailored the duplicate of the platform to its own business needs – a wonderful win-win solution.
Looking back over your career, what has been your proudest achievement?
From the outset, at the beginning of my studies and my career, I have always been pulled into the latest developments rather instinctively. For instance, I focused on IT law back in 2001 when many law firms in Switzerland did not even have online access, and “digitisation” was a term rarely used. Further, I initiated a conference focused specifically on data protection way back in 2007, at a time when data protection in Switzerland was a niche topic for overly concerned consumer protection advocates. With this early-adaptor attitude, I established my law firm in 2013 with a specific focus on IT/IP, outsourcing and data protection, at a time when hardly anyone was talking about boutique law firms. Whereas many of my peers were petrified by the idea of going self-employed, my law firm not only still exists to this day but, moreover, is thriving – which is clearly my proudest achievement to date.
Martina Arioli garners plaudits for her “in-depth legal and technical know-how on software development and all ICT-related matters, including GDPR”. Clients “appreciate her solution-oriented approach”.
Martina Arioli established her law firm Arioli Law in 2013 in Zurich after having worked for one of Switzerland’s leading law firms, Walder Wyss, as well as for a major Swiss bank and a major Swiss insurance company.
Martina Arioli combines in-depth knowledge on complex contractual matters in outsourcing and information technology projects with the experience of implementing such global projects as in-house lawyer. Further, she provides comprehensive advice to companies in the IT industry on software development, licensing, technology-related transactions, IP protection, data protection and compliance as well as employment law. She also regularly advises clients in the entertainment industry, mainly film and music. For more than a decade she has chaired a prestigious annual conference on data protection in Switzerland. She teaches law at various Swiss universities.
Martina Arioli studied law, philosophy and political science at the University of Bern where she graduated in 1996 (magna cum laude), passed the Bar in 1999 with excellence and received an LLM from London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in IP in 2001.
Martina Arioli is fluent in German and English. She is registered with the Zurich Bar Registry and admitted to practise in all of Switzerland.