Peter Hafner has been a partner with Wartmann Merker since 2006. Previously, he was an associate and partner with an international law firm in Zurich and a visiting foreign lawyer with Sullivan & Cromwell, New York (1997-1998). He graduated from the University of Zurich (1991 lic iur, 1994 Dr iur) and the University of Michigan Law School (1997 LLM). He was admitted to the Bar in Switzerland in 1993 and to the New York Bar in 1998.
How have you developed your litigation practice since you began your career?
There had been two key factors that remained unchanged over the years: clients who returned with new assignments and referrals by colleagues. And even if you have successfully handled many cases, you have to deliver in each case anew. Fifteen years ago we began to transform Wartmann Merker into a litigation boutique and thereby successfully established the firm’s strong litigation practice. The specialisation in dispute resolution and the handling of novel cases has led to a broad and ever-growing level of know-how and expertise.
What is it about your role as a litigator that you enjoy the most?
Each case turns on facts that don’t go away and you build the case with these facts. You have to write well and it’s highly rewarding when the client reads the draft submission in a complex dispute and finds his or her case persuasively presented to the court. You learn many details of the challenges that your clients face and get to work closely with professionals from various trades and industries.
What would you say are the important qualities that make a successful modern litigator?
As in the past, it takes an analytical mind, attention to the factual issues of a case, and tenacity to protect the client’s interests. Good cooperation with the client and anyone who can assist in the case is a key factor. As many clients cope with a fast-changing environment in their industries, the ability to understand the trends that drive those changes is essential to provide sound strategic litigation advice.
How do you seek to coordinate multinational claims and develop international defence strategies?
If a client has a preferred law firm in a specific jurisdiction, we naturally work with them, otherwise we reach out to a suitable firm. In our experience, effective cooperation with co-counsel is easy and leads to similar defence strategies across different jurisdictions.
To what extent has covid-19 impacted your practice?
Since litigation cases often take years to resolve, the pandemic has to date had little impact on the volume of cases. Except for a few months in Spring 2020, the Swiss courts continued to hold hearings, with protection concepts in place. As everywhere, owing to travel restrictions, coordination with the clients has shifted to video conferences.
Where, in your opinion, does the future of the practice area lie?
Litigation will remain a suitable and tested option to resolve important and complex disputes. A current project for the revision of the Swiss Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the creation of international commercial courts in Switzerland. If adopted, the new legislation favours a shift from commercial arbitration to the generally less costly and efficient adjudication of international commercial disputes by Swiss state courts.
What was a significant achievement for you in the past year?
The firm represented the successful corporate appellants in a landmark case with the Swiss Federal Supreme Court to limit the scope of a data subject access request under the Federal Data Protection Act, where the appeal dealt with the administration of evidence by the lower courts, which is only appealable under rarely accepted conditions.
What are the key challenges younger litigators may face in their practice and how can they overcome these? Is there an important role to play here for experienced practitioners?
Get exposure to cases and problems to train their judgement. All of our associates work under the guidance and supervision of a partner to develop their litigation skills. Moreover, our associates are assigned to a specific partner to get involved in the day-to-day work of that partner’s practice.
Peter Hafner is widely recognised in the Swiss market as a leading figure in banking, contract and private client dispute resolution.
Peter Hafner's practice focuses on commercial litigation and international civil procedure. He represents clients before state courts, arbitral tribunals and supervisory authorities. His practice includes disputes in the fields of banking law, agency, media, employment law, data protection, bankruptcy and corporate litigation.
Peter Hafner is a partner with Wartmann & Merker since 2006. Previously, he was an associate (1994-1996 and 1998-2001) and partner (2002-2004) with an international law firm in Zurich, and a visiting foreign lawyer with Sullivan & Cromwell, New York (1997-1998).
Peter Hafner graduated from the University of Zurich in 1991 (lic.iur.) and earned his doctorate degree in 1994 with a thesis in copyright law. In 1997, he graduated from the University of Michigan Law School (LL.M.). He was admitted to the Bar in Switzerland in 1993 and to the New York Bar in 1998.
Established in 1992, Wartmann Merker's core area of practice is dispute resolution. The firm advises clients from Switzerland and abroad and represents them in court in all areas of commercial law. Members of the firm act as counsel or arbitrator in international and domestic arbitral proceedings. In addition, the firm advises Swiss manufacturing, trading and service companies, and it acts for foreign companies doing business in Switzerland, notably in the financial and media sectors.