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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Philippe Bärtsch

Philippe Bärtsch

Schellenberg Wittmer Ltd15bis, rue des AlpesPO Box 2088GenevaSwitzerland1211
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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

Questions & Answers

Philippe Bärtsch is a partner and a vice-chair of Schellenberg Wittmer’s international arbitration practice. Philippe has extensive experience handling complex international commercial arbitrations. He has acted as counsel and arbitrator in over 100 high-stake arbitrations, both ad hoc and institutional, across a wide variety of matters and applicable laws. He has handled disputes relating to M&A transactions, construction and infrastructure projects, joint ventures, and sales, licence and distribution contracts. His expertise spans a broad range of sectors, including the energy, commodity trading, construction, pharmaceutical, consumer goods and sports industries.

WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO A CAREER IN ARBITRATION?

A combination of a desire to work in an international field for exposure to different industries, different legal systems and people all over the world, and the chance to work with people who truly inspired me. I was fortunate to be trained by some of the most talented people in arbitration, including Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler, Laurent Lévy, Elliott Geisinger, Nathalie Voser and Anne Véronique Schläpfer, who shared their passion for arbitration and made me want to continue in this field. In the 15 years that I’ve practised arbitration, I’ve never regretted that choice. The work has been highly interesting; I’ve worked with terrific clients and colleagues; and at Schellenberg Wittmer, we’ve developed a great team.

HOW HAS THE MARKET CHANGED SINCE YOUR FIRST STARTED PRACTISING?

In my view the arbitration market has grown, and become more sophisticated and more competitive. Looking at the growing number of cases we handle, I think the market continues to expand. Simultaneously clients are more and more sophisticated, and demanding (rightly so) counsel who are not only experienced in arbitration, but who also have in-depth knowledge of their industry and needs, not to mention top-notch advocacy skills combined with a strategic mindset. Accordingly, the market has become more competitive — which is an opportunity for firms and practitioners who are at the top of the game. Competition also arises from different arbitration seats, which is a driver for improvement and a reminder that no arbitral seat should sit on its laurels. 

WHAT DO CLIENTS LOOK FOR IN AN EFFECTIVE ARBITRATOR?

While the exact skills clients and counsel are looking for may vary depending on the specifics of the case, there are some general attributes that are always important: outstanding legal skills; the ability to spot and understand problems quickly; the ability to conduct proceedings efficiently and to be strong if necessary (and, particularly, not to let dilatory tactics derail the proceedings); a good understanding of the relevant industry; international sensitivity; and, above all, good judgement.

HOW HAS SPORTS ARBITRATION DEVELOPED SINCE YOU ENTERED THE FIELD?

First, a growing awareness that while sports arbitration, and CAS arbitration in particular, is very efficient and probably best suited for the resolution of sports disputes, there is sometimes a tension with the fundamental rights of athletes; in particular their due process rights, which must be respected at all times — even more so as they have no choice but to accept arbitration in the first place. Second, a growing number of very complex, heavily fought and publicised disputes, for which the usual sports arbitration procedure and timeline may not always be entirely suited. As an illustration, we recently managed to get 28 Russian athletes who had been banned for life by the IOC fully cleared before the CAS, in what was probably the largest CAS proceeding to date. Given the number of athletes, witnesses and experts involved, as well as the complexity of the issues at stake and the timeline within which a decision had to be rendered, there was a need to think outside the box.

WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF TRADE SANCTIONS ON INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION?

In a nutshell, the impact of trade sanctions on international arbitration can be significant and manifold: the potential impact on the parties’ claims; the potential impact on the parties themselves, on their counsel, on the arbitrators and/or on the arbitration institution; the potential impact on the proceedings due to parallel investigations or criminal proceedings; and the potential impact at the enforcement stage. The fact that each sanctions regime is different, and that several different sanctions regimes may apply to the same situation, makes it even more complicated. Due to the growing number of sanctions and their potentially far-reaching implications, this has become a hot topic nowadays. There is now awareness of the importance to monitor trade sanctions and their potential implications.

WHAT MAKES SCHELLENBERG WITTMER STAND OUT FROM ITS COMPETITORS?

We are one of the few Swiss firms with the necessary experience, advocacy skills, international team and mindset to handle complex, cross-border arbitrations. Our clients appreciate that we offer the same quality of service as large international firms with a strong arbitration practice, but at more competitive prices and with a more down-to-earth approach when it comes to staffing and case handling. We handle a significant and growing number of arbitrations with no link to Switzerland — a testament to the fact that our clients consider us a premier international arbitration practice. 

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR PRACTICE DEVELOPING OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?

The team has made a collective effort to build a top international arbitration practice. We will continue our efforts, together with three partners we have recently promoted – and hopefully more in the coming years.

WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF CAREER ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?

Always strive for excellence; never comprise on integrity; leave no stone unturned in fact-finding and in the analysis of the law; do your best to serve clients around the clock; and be serious, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

 

Global Leader

Arbitration 2019

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Philippe Bärtsch has a great reputation in the space with commentators commending his excellent work on commercial arbitration across the energy and construction sectors.

Biography

Philippe Bärtsch is a partner in Schellenberg Wittmer’s Geneva office, where he acts as one of the two global vice chairs of the firm’s international arbitration practice Philippe has extensive experience handling complex international commercial arbitrations. He has acted as counsel and arbitrator in over 100 high-stake arbitrations, both ad hoc and institutional, across a wide variety of matters and applicable laws. He has handled disputes relating to M&A transactions, construction and infrastructure projects, joint ventures, and sales, licence and distribution contracts. His expertise spans a broad range of sectors, including the energy, commodity trading, construction, pharmaceutical, consumer goods and sports industries.

Philippe's recent arbitration expertise includes successful representation of: a leading pharmaceutical company in a dispute over a licence and distribution agreement; a telecommunication company in a post M&A dispute; a leading European energy company in a price-revision dispute; a Swedish company in setting aside proceedings before the Swiss Supreme Court; and 39 Russian athletes who challenged their disqualification from the Sochi Games and their lifetime Olympic bans by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Philippe regularly publishes and speaks on topics related to arbitration. He is a member of the Court of the Swiss Chambers’ Arbitration Institution and co-chairs the marketing committee of the Swiss Arbitration Association (ASA).

Philippe holds a law degree from the University of Geneva and a Master of Laws (LLM) from Harvard Law School. He has been a partner of the firm since 2012.

National Leader

Switzerland - Arbitration

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Philippe Bärtsch “makes arguments very well, and in an efficient way” opine interviewees, who say that they “find him excellent”. He has expertise in both ad hoc and institutional arbitrations pertaining to the construction and energy sectors.

Biography

Philippe Bärtsch is a partner in Schellenberg Wittmer’s Geneva office, where he acts as one of the two global vice chairs of the firm’s international arbitration practice. Philippe has extensive experience handling complex international commercial arbitrations. He has acted as counsel and arbitrator in over 120 high-stake arbitrations, both ad hoc and institutional, across a wide variety of matters and applicable laws. He has handled disputes relating to M&A transactions, construction and infrastructure projects, joint ventures, and sales, licence and distribution contracts. His expertise spans a broad range of sectors, including the energy, commodity trading, construction, pharmaceutical, consumer goods and sports industries.

Philippe's recent arbitration expertise includes successful representation of: a leading pharmaceutical company in a dispute over a licence and distribution agreement; a telecommunication company in a post M&A dispute; a leading European energy company in a price-revision dispute; a Swedish company in setting aside proceedings before the Swiss Supreme Court; and 39 Russian athletes who challenged their disqualification from the Sochi Games and their lifetime Olympic bans by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Philippe regularly publishes and speaks on topics related to arbitration. He is a member of the Court of the Swiss Chambers’ Arbitration Institution and co-chairs the marketing committee of the Swiss Arbitration Association (ASA).

Philippe holds a law degree from the University of Geneva and a Master of Laws (LLM) from Harvard Law School. He has been a partner of the firm since 2012.

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