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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Nathalie Voser

Nathalie Voser

Schellenberg Wittmer LtdLöwenstrasse 19PO Box 2201ZurichZurichSwitzerland8021
Watch interview with Nathalie Voser

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader
Thought Leaders - Arbitration 2020

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Nathalie Voser is “a high flyer” in the European arbitration field, whom peers “only have praise for”. They note that she “never fails to impress – neither on the law, nor on inter-personal skills as an arbitrator”.

Questions & Answers

Nathalie Voser is a partner in Schellenberg Wittmer’s arbitration group. She has acted as counsel and arbitrator in a large number of cases under various arbitration rules. Nathalie’s practice focuses on commercial and investor-state disputes relating to contracts in the fields of construction; civil engineering and energy projects; and oil and gas, and she also has substantial experience in the pharmaceutical and automotive industry. Nathalie also acts regularly in proceedings relating to arbitration before state courts.

How has exposure to various foreign legal systems during your career enhanced your arbitration practice?

Being exposed to foreign legal systems helps me to better understand and resolve cases under other legal systems than my own. I remember the time when I was somehow reluctant to accept appointments under other legal systems than Swiss law, but with the large number of cases under different legal systems I have dealt with up to this point as an arbitrator, I feel comfortable and able to understand the legal issues and different legal systems quickly. 

I do not fully support the often-heard idea that “cases are decided on facts”. Rather, I think that a legal approach to facts from the very beginning leads to more reliable results. But even with a more legal approach, the outcome of a case does often not depend on the applicable law unless it is a particular issue, and the results will be the same even if labelled differently. This is not surprising since legal systems are here to embody the principles of natural law and justice, and these are immutable. Thus, it is only in special legal matters, or when the state has introduced its legal system with a lot of “policy” provisions which serve a particular (usually social) purpose, that real differences appear. 

How effective have the Prague Rules been in their aim to increase efficiency? Do they offer a viable alternative to the IBA rules?

While in the first drafts of the Prague Rules some of the suggestions constituted a real difference to the approach under the IBA rules, I do not see substantial differences in its final version. I think what they attempt (time and cost-efficiency) can be achieved easily under the IBA rules via proactive case management by the arbitral tribunal. 

Thus they are, in this sense, not an “alternative”. This does not mean that in certain regions they might be chosen by the parties as an alternative simply because they are perceived as an alternative. 

How do you see defences based on force majeure clauses developing due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic?

It is a bit early to say but I expect force majeure defences relating to the duration of performance. I predict parties will raise the force majeure defence because of late or non-delivery, or late or non- performance. 

Depending on the legal regime applicable, another angle might be what we call in Switzerland an “unfair advantage”, ie, where – due to the covid-19 situation – there is a clear discrepancy between the performance and the remuneration. 

Does the rising backlash to globalisation threaten investor-state dispute settlement as we know it?

I do not think that the anticipated changes in investor-state dispute are primarily due to the backlash to globalisation. Rather, states have recognised that today’s investor-state arbitrations are not what they ultimately want, and thus have initiated changes to the regime as exemplified by the Working Group III of the UNCITRAL. 

Should the practice of “double-hatting” be prohibited?

A general provision would go too far in my view and also restrict the pool of available arbitrators considerably; refined conflict of interest rules and regimes should be sufficient to deal with this issue. 

Are there any particular jurisdictions you would like to focus your practice on in the future? If so, why?

I would like to focus more on England and common-law jurisdictions generally. This is more to broaden my spectrum out of a personal interest, and due to the fact that I have worked under civil law regimes in the vast majority of my cases. 

How does mentoring younger practitioners at your firm form part of your day-to-day practice?

We have a close and regular exchange on a daily basis, and very much have an “open door” policy with a flat hierarchy. Thus, everyone has access to partners and frequently discuss career issues. 

We also have a formalised process where each associate sets his or her professional goals for the next year, which are discussed with the responsible partner and their achievement is reviewed the year after.

What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

During my junior years, there was not yet a culture of coaching young lawyers. It was pretty much expected that we would guide ourselves through the jungle of choices and opportunity. So I cannot remember any “best piece” of advice that was given to me in my professional life. My advice today would be to do what you like to do, even if this does not seem the obvious career choice. Only the passion for what I do gave me (and still gives me) the energy and perseverance that is ultimately needed to succeed.

Thought Leaders - Construction 2020

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Nathalie Voser is widely renowned for her “leading counsel and arbitrator practice”.

Questions & Answers

Nathalie Voser is a partner in Schellenberg Wittmer’s dispute resolution group. She has acted as counsel and arbitrator in a vast number of cases. Her arbitration practice focuses on construction, civil engineering and energy-related projects, oil and gas production projects, research and development, distribution and licence agreements, joint ventures as well as mergers and acquisitions. Nathalie is well known for her expertise in (renewable) energy, oil and gas, pharmaceutical and automotive industries.
How has the market changed since you first started practising?
When I started practising in the mid-90s, arbitration specialists were rare to find and thus there was much less competition. Today, many young lawyers specialise in this area and there is an abundance of arbitration lawyers practising in very small to very large law firms. They are all keen to be instructed by clients which leads to fierce competition.
The second main difference relates to the globalisation of arbitration. Twenty years ago, it would have been almost inconceivable that a foreign-trained lawyer would, for example, have the lead in an arbitration governed by Swiss law. Also, however to a lesser extent, if the arbitration was seated in Switzerland, local counsel were almost always involved. Today, this is different. One regularly sees cases being run by lawyers from a particular jurisdiction without meaningful involvement of lawyers trained in the applicable law and not local support.
Can you tell us about the most challenging cases you have worked on?
It is impossible to pick out “the” most challenging case because the challenges can be on various levels. Generally, I find cases that I chair are particularly challenging because it is often the chairperson of the tribunal that has the main burden of the proper organisation, the efficient conduct and - at the end of the day - the right decision to make.
In which areas of your practice have you seen an uptick or downturn in recently? What do you think is driving this?
There are a lot of construction disputes going on and with the delays incurred due to covid-19, I think that there will be more to come.
To what extent will covid-19 inform parties’ behaviour when entering into construction and engineering contracts in the future?
One difference will be to more carefully look at the force majeure provisions in the contracts. Covid-19 has taught us that even the most unforeseeable things can happen in the future and that, depending from which side you see it from, participants in the construction industry need more flexible provisions than those who provided for in particular an exclusive enumeration of force majeure events.
I could also imagine that the parties will put more emphasis on alternative means (eg, more Dispute Boards) to resolve unforeseen issues quickly, so as to cause not even more delays in the projects and to resolve disputes in a cheaper manner, now that many companies have lost a lot of money due to the pandemic crisis.
What are the most common sources of construction disputes and how do you think clients can minimise the risks of them occurring?
I have hardly seen a construction dispute without delay issues being part of the dispute. I think if parties were to use BIM based contracts, in the future, this would reduce the risks, since it is easier to track the workflow and the connections between different scopes of works of the subcontractor. Thus, delays and source for delay should be recognisable earlier or at the root. I have, however, never seen a disputed BIM contract being submitted to an arbitral tribunal.
The construction industry often turns to arbitration for dispute resolution. What steps are courts taking to offer a rival forum for dispute resolution in the construction market?
In several jurisdictions there are now international courts who want to attract international disputes by offering their services in English.
However, I do not think that such courts are particularly geared to construction disputes. I do not think that State courts are an ideal forum for the construction industry. The reason is that it is highly unlikely that they be able to provide the flexible approaches and solutions that arbitrators can provide to the parties. Only such tailor-made flexible solutions can, in my view, lead to a cost-efficient resolution of large construction and infrastructure disputes.
What I can rather see as being more often used is mediation or mini-trials (even “arbitrators only” with and in-house teams without external lawyers) to quickly and cost efficiently resolve disputes.
What makes Schellenberg Wittmer stand out in the Swiss market?
Schellenberg Wittmer has a profound knowledge of construction and engineering related disputes and industries. We have a dedicated and international team whose members are prepared to go the extra mile for the client because they are enthusiastic about what they do.
What has been your greatest achievement to date?
I think every day is an achievement if I manage to keep up with the high turnover of information and can produce the outputs that is necessary for the cases I am dealing with!
There is not really one achievement that stands out. However, being appreciated and recognised by young associates as mentor and teacher is a satisfactory feeling and a personal achievement.

Global Leader

Arbitration 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Nathalie Voser is “a high flyer” in the European arbitration field, whom peers “only have praise for”. They note that she “never fails to impress – neither on the law, nor on inter-personal skills as an arbitrator”.

Biography

Nathalie Voser is a partner in Schellenberg Wittmer's dispute resolution group in Zurich. She acted as counsel and arbitrator in a large number of cases under various arbitration rules. Her practice focuses both on commercial and investor-state disputes relating to contracts in the field of construction, civil engineering and energy projects, oil and gas (including price adaptation disputes), research and development, and distribution and licence agreements. She has also substantial experience in the pharmaceutical and the automotive industry. Nathalie also regularly acts in proceedings relating to arbitration before state courts such as setting aside proceedings before the Swiss Supreme Court. She also advises clients involved in complex multi-jurisdictional disputes before state courts.

In 1988, Nathalie graduated summa cum laude from the University of Basel and was admitted to the Swiss Bar in 1990. In 1994, she earned an LLM with honours from Columbia University, New York. Since 2014, she is a professor of private law, arbitration law, private international law and comparative law at the University of Basel. She is a member of many professional organisations and also sits on the board of several arbitration institutions.

Construction 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Nathalie Voser is widely renowned for her “leading counsel and arbitrator practice”.

Biography

Nathalie Voser is a partner in Schellenberg Wittmer's dispute resolution group in Zürich. She has acted as counsel and arbitrator in a vast number of cases and has advised clients involved in complex multi-jurisdictional disputes before state courts. Her practice focuses on contracts regarding construction, civil engineering and energy-related projects, oil and gas production projects, research and development, distribution and licence agreements, joint ventures as well as mergers and acquisitions. Nathalie is well known for her expertise in the construction, (renewable) power production, oil and gas, pharmaceutical and automotive industries.

She is currently appointed as arbitrator in a number of construction and engineering cases.

Nathalie is currently a vice president of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) and a board member of the Swiss Arbitration Association. She is a Swiss delegate in the ICC Arbitration and ADR Commission in Paris.

In 1988, Nathalie graduated summa cum laude from the University of Basel and was admitted to the Swiss Bar in 1990. In 1994, she earned an LLM with honours from Columbia University, New York. In 2014, she was awarded the title of professor in private law, arbitration law, private international law and comparative law by the University of Basel.

Litigation 2019

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Nathalie Voser is a first-rate lawyer who excels when it comes to representing clients in high-value construction and energy-related disputes.

Biography

Nathalie Voser is a partner in Schellenberg Wittmer's dispute resolution group in Zurich. She advises clients involved in complex multi-jurisdictional disputes before state courts. She also acted as counsel and arbitrator in a large number of cases. Her practice focuses both on commercial and BIT investor–state disputes relating to contracts in the field of construction, civil engineering and energy-related projects, oil and gas, research and development, distribution and license agreements, joint ventures, as well as mergers and acquisitions. Nathalie also regularly acts in proceedings relating to arbitration before state courts such as setting aside proceedings before the Swiss Supreme Court.

In 1988, Nathalie graduated summa cum laude from the University of Basel and was admitted to the Swiss Bar in 1990. In 1994, she earned an LLM with honours from Columbia University, New York. Since 2014, she is a professor of private law, arbitration law, private international law and comparative law at the University of Basel. She is a member of many professional organisations and also sits on the board of several arbitration institutions.

National Leader

Switzerland - Arbitration 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Nathalie Voser is renowned as “one of the leading minds” in the market who “can be very persuasive and knows how to help clients get what they want from tribunals”. 

Biography

Nathalie Voser is a partner in Schellenberg Wittmer's dispute resolution group in Zurich. She acted as counsel and arbitrator in a large number of cases under various arbitration rules. Her practice focuses both on commercial and investor-state disputes relating to contracts in the field of construction, civil engineering and energy projects, oil and gas (including price adaptation disputes), research and development, and distribution and licence agreements. She has also substantial experience in the pharmaceutical and the automotive industry. Nathalie also regularly acts in proceedings relating to arbitration before state courts such as setting aside proceedings before the Swiss Supreme Court. She also advises clients involved in complex multi-jurisdictional disputes before state courts.

In 1988, Nathalie graduated summa cum laude from the University of Basel and was admitted to the Swiss Bar in 1990. In 1994, she earned an LLM with honours from Columbia University, New York. Since 2014, she is a professor of private law, arbitration law, private international law and comparative law at the University of Basel. She is a member of many professional organisations and also served or still sits on the board of several arbitration institutions.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Nathalie Voser is an established and “well-known” name in the Swiss construction market, distinguished as a leading light when it comes to acting as arbitrator and counsel in high-value disputes. 

Biography

Nathalie Voser is a partner in Schellenberg Wittmer's dispute resolution group in Zürich. She has acted as counsel and arbitrator in a vast number of cases and has advised clients involved in complex multi-jurisdictional disputes before state courts. Her practice focuses on contracts regarding construction, civil engineering and energy-related projects, oil and gas production projects, research and development, distribution and licence agreements, joint ventures as well as mergers and acquisitions. Nathalie is well known for her expertise in the construction, (renewable) power production, oil and gas, pharmaceutical and automotive industries.

She is currently appointed as arbitrator in a number of construction and engineering cases.

Nathalie is currently a vice president of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) and a board member of the Swiss Arbitration Association. She is a Swiss delegate in the ICC Arbitration and ADR Commission in Paris.

In 1988, Nathalie graduated summa cum laude from the University of Basel and was admitted to the Swiss Bar in 1990. In 1994 she earned an LLM with honours from Columbia University, New York. In 2014, she was awarded the title of professor in private law, arbitration law, private international law and comparative law by the University of Basel.

Switzerland - Litigation 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Nathalie Voser is praised by peers throughout Switzerland as "relentlessly thorough" and "extremely active" in commercial litigation. 

Biography

Nathalie Voser is a partner in Schellenberg Wittmer's dispute resolution group in Zurich. She advises clients involved in complex multi-jurisdictional disputes before state courts. She also acted as counsel and arbitrator in a large number of cases. Her practice focuses both on commercial and BIT investor-state disputes relating to contracts in the field of construction, civil engineering and energy-related projects, oil and gas, research and development, distribution and license agreements, joint ventures, as well as mergers and acquisitions. Nathalie also regularly acts in proceedings relating to arbitration before state courts such as setting aside proceedings before the Swiss Supreme Court.

In 1988, Nathalie graduated summa cum laude from the University of Basel and was admitted to the Swiss Bar in 1990. In 1994, she earned an LLM with honours from Columbia University, New York. Since 2014, she is a professor of private law, arbitration law, private international law and comparative law at the University of Basel. She is a member of many professional organisations and also sits on the board of several arbitration institutions.

Awards won by Nathalie Voser

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