For more than 25 years, Michael Knoerzer has focused on the litigation and arbitration of disputes of interest to insurers and reinsurers, as well as advising insurers and reinsurers in non-contentious matters. He is recognised as a leading litigator of complex insurance and reinsurance disputes, having successfully first-chaired scores of complex and high-value matters spanning numerous types of industry covers, including Bermuda Form, general liability, excess liability, trade credit, D&O, surety, life/health and reinsurance. Michael’s advice is also often sought in non-contentious matters related to insurance and reinsurance, including in the reorganisation of the Panama Canal construction surety bonds.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST INTERESTING CASE TO DATE, AND WHY?
It may sound like an evasion, but my most interesting case is almost always the next one. An underappreciated feature of working for the insurance and reinsurance industry is the breadth of subject matters that underlie the case, ranging from industrial (such as accidents at mines or power plants) to environmental (such as floods and hurricanes) to scientific (such as the possibility that hormones cause cancer). To succeed, you must be constantly learning new areas of human endeavour.
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO SPECIALISE IN INSURANCE AND REINSURANCE PRACTICE?
Commercial insurance and reinsurance disputes are often subject to binding arbitration. The matters proceed more quickly and there is more opportunity for advocacy. For a young associate, the opportunity to be actively involved in an arbitration that starts and finishes in nine months or less was an experience that few other industries could provide. I was motivated by the fact that, from an early start, I was conducting two or three hearings a year, sometimes several more.
WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF INTERNATIONAL INSURANCE ARBITRATIONS?
International arbitration involves, by definition, different laws and cultures. Just because an arbitration is being heard under NY law or English law does not mean that international laws and cultures do not play a role – they very much play a role, and experienced practitioners realise that you need to rise to the challenge and master those international laws and cultures.
IN WHAT WAYS DOES CLYDE & CO DISTINGUISH ITSELF FROM COMPETITION IN THE MARKET?
Unlike most large firms, Clyde & Co is a true partnership, not a verein. The partners are incentivised to work closely together in a way partners at most other large firms are not. We are also highly focused on a few chosen areas – most prominently insurance and reinsurance – we are not a general practice firm. When you hire Clyde & Co, we believe you are hiring the world’s best insurance-focused firm.
WHERE, IN YOUR OPINION, DOES THE FUTURE OF THE PRACTICE AREA LIE?
From what we see in the marketplace, insurers and reinsurers believe they must consolidate or perish, and that they must be international. They are looking for law firms that mirror their own development; to be a successful law firm in the future you must be focused, international and efficient.
YOU HAVE ENJOYED A VERY DISTINGUISHED CAREER SO FAR. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACHIEVE THAT YOU HAVE NOT YET ACCOMPLISHED?
Winning cases has always been the goal. It still is. However, as time goes on, I feel ever more a desire to guide younger lawyers towards success and, if success means partnership, then overseeing their promotion to partnership.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNGER PRACTITIONERS HOPING TO ONE DAY BE IN YOUR POSITION?
Treat your law degree like your most valuable asset – invest in it, work hard on it, and respect it. In my experience, the difference between a mediocre lawyer and a super-successful one is based almost entirely on hard work. Study other successful lawyers and do what they do, even if it means getting in early.