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WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

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”.

Questions & Answers

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 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.

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 passion 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 that they feel that they always come first. By contrast to partners in 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 rather relaxed and we can jointly focus on their actual needs.

What advice would you give to practitioners looking to establish their own firm?

A solid network is key. Networking is work too, so you have to make it as interesting and as much fun as possible. Establishing your own law firm is not a walk in the park. It means sacrifice, dedication and flexibility at all times. You have to take care of a multitude of issues yourself which go beyond the actual legal work – and most of them are non-billable. Further, make a realistic assessment of your 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, first and foremost the freedom you gain.

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 human 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, I render my clients independent of my legal support at a later stage. This facilitates contract management during the life cycle of a project and saves attorney’s fees for my clients.

What has covid-19 changed for your practice and your clients’ projects? 

I offer pro bono legal services to individuals in the IT and entertainment industry as well as small businesses hit hard by the covid-19-crisis, so my workload increased considerably. As to my “regular” clients, we all had to adapt very quickly. Due to the various interdependencies, digital innovation projects are often too complex to make a halt midway. In order to meet the deadlines, negotiations and meetings are now led almost exclusively online. This may impede the fostering of a personal rapport, however, the personal rapport is crucial for long-standing business relations, be it between customer and provider, be it between attorney and client. We will see how this “new normal” will play out. 

How do you anticipate the Swiss legal market changing in the next five years? How might this affect your practice? 

The hype around digitisation and legal tech is consistently growing and has certainly experienced a considerable boost due to the covid-19 crisis. To date, however, it seems the hype around legal tech is mostly fed by the big law firms and is not (yet) matched by the more conservative client expectation. Nevertheless, the deployment of software programs in big projects can replace young lawyers and trainees. In addition, there is an increasing general expectation regarding legal advice to be at partner level - understandably, clients are not willing to “pay” for the training of young lawyers. These factors may make it increasingly difficult for young lawyers to gain the working experience they require.

Further, the Swiss Supreme Court has in recent cases taken a rigid approach to conflict of interest within law firms which may restrict the business of big law firms and, thus, may move clients to boutique law firms like my practice – a shift that has already been noticeable in recent years. 

What other projects interest you beyond the legal services you provide with your practice? 

I am member of advisory boards of disruptive digitization start-ups but would very much enjoy being a member of the board of established companies. Further, I love teaching, be it young students, be it advanced lawyers within specialised programmes, and will continue teaching with enthusiasm. 

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 already back in 2007, at a time data protection in Switzerland was a niche topic for overly concerned consumer protection advocates. With this early adaptor attitude, I established my law firm 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.

National Leader

Switzerland - Data 2021

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Martina Arioli continues to impress sources with her “superb negotiation skills” and vast experience in IT outsourcing transactions.

Biography

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 and advanced technical colleges.

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.

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