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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.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Nathalie Voser ranks among the elite construction arbitration specialists in Switzerland, with sources calling her “exceptionally well versed in any type of construction dispute”.

Questions & Answers

Nathalie Voser is a partner in Schellenberg Wittmer’s dispute resolution group. She acts as counsel and arbitrator in a vast number of cases and also advises clients involved in complex multi-jurisdictional disputes before state courts. Nathalie’s practice focuses on commercial and investor-state disputes regarding construction; civil engineering and energy-related projects; oil and gas; research and development; distribution and licence agreements; joint ventures; mergers and acquisitions; and the pharmaceutical and automotive industries.

You have experience and expertise in both investor-state and commercial construction arbitrations. What are the most significant differences between these two types of arbitration?

The fact that a state or a state entity is a party in an arbitration does not change per se the nature of the arbitration, as long as it is not an international treaty-based arbitration. Particularities may arise due to how states appoint outside counsel, but otherwise there is no significant difference.

When it comes to arbitration with claims based on international public rights and obligations enshrined in international (investment) treaties, it changes the arbitration rather radically. This is, in my experience, a different field of law and the only common denominator is the similar arbitration-related procedural issues arising in both types of arbitration.

What are the greatest challenges that arbitrators with your expertise face today?

The “fight“ between the parties has become tougher in the past 10 years, particularly in high-stakes cases. The biggest challenge in my view is resisting any attempts of obstruction by a party, and finding means to make sure the arbitration is not being derailed due to such attempts. In this context, distinguishing legitimate from non-legitimate procedural requests and objections is not always an easy task.

What do clients look for when selecting counsel in an arbitration dispute?

From an arbitrator’s perspective, I think clients look for counsels who are very experienced in arbitration and know their way through difficult procedural situations. I also believe that parties prefer counsels with specific industry expertise.

With the proliferation of arbitration centres around the world, how will Switzerland continue to keep its competitive edge?

Switzerland is in the process of revising its international arbitration law. It will become even simpler for foreign counsel to understand the very pragmatic and simple arbitration code that holds party autonomy as its highest principle. However, the reason that distinguishes the Swiss seat the most is a solid body of case law of the Supreme Court with about 40 to 60 decisions per year on setting aside arbitral awards. This is of great assistance in terms of legal certainty. Also, I am not aware of any other jurisdiction where the state courts decide on setting aside applications in four to six months as the Swiss Supreme Court does. This is (or should be) of great importance to parties when choosing the seat.

How has the firm adapted to address the challenges caused by legal market saturation?

Schellenberg Wittmer has positioned itself in the international arbitration market with a very strong, diverse and international team. We have also managed to broaden our client base by adding sports arbitration and investment treaty arbitration to our core competencies. We are particularly well known for our unique construction law team that I co-head.

What has been your greatest achievement to date?

It is difficult to single out one achievement, but every time I conclude an arbitration as chair with an award, I have a great sense of achievement. I never came across an “easy“ case and, as presiding arbitrator, the main responsibility to conduct the proceedings and render a “right” award falls on my shoulders. This goes with a sense of both high intellectual satisfaction and accountability.

What advice would you give young women considering arbitration as their specialty?

It is not clear how this market is going to evolve, especially in Europe and post-Achmea, so I would advise them to not specialise too early on during their education – for example, focusing on investment treaty arbitration in university. Also, perfect English skills are essential and, for non-native speakers, an exchange year is ideal. Finally, the VIS Moot Court (East or West) is an excellent way to get to know the arbitration world and gain experience very early on.

You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?

I feel very thankful for what I have accomplished so far and there is not much I would like to change. In the coming years, however, I would welcome the opportunity for more experience in treaty-based investment arbitrations.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

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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