Elliott E Geisinger
Office:
15bis, rue des Alpes
PO Box 2088
1211
City:
Geneva
State:
Geneva
Country:
Switzerland
Tel:
+41 22 707 8000
Fax:
+41 22 707 8001

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Arbitration

Elliott Geisinger heads Schellenberg Wittmer’s international arbitration group. Since 1994, his practice has focused on international arbitration. He has acted as counsel and arbitrator in complex commercial disputes involving international construction contracts, consortia and joint venture agreements, sponsorship contracts, and sales and distribution contracts. Elliott has regularly represented clients in arbitration-related court proceedings, in particular, investment-related matters. Several of his cases have been reported on, in the official collection of Swiss Supreme Court cases and in arbitration journals. Elliott specialises in contract management in large-scale construction projects.

DESCRIBE YOUR CAREER TO DATE.

I was fortunate to have received legal and practical training from some of the most prestigious people in arbitration: Pierre Lalive, Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler and Laurent Lévy. This opened horizons and presented opportunities that I seized. Since becoming a partner (2002), my career has been built on patience, perseverance (knowing that results don’t come quickly) and hard work, plus hiring bright talents. These bright talents formed an exceptional team and many of them are now my partners.

YOU HAVE BEEN PRACTISING AT SCHELLENBERG WITTMER FOR OVER A DECADE. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE FIRM THAT SETS IT APART FROM ITS COMPETITORS?

What sets us apart is our emphasis on teamwork: the hierarchy is flat and if a trainee has a better idea than a senior partner, then all the better! Also, our clients know who forms the team and has direct access to all levels. Finally, the main team player is the client, which means that we go the extra mile to understand their commercial and business goals, and to develop our strategy to achieve those goals.

TO WHAT EXTENT IS SWITZERLAND A FAVOURABLE JURISDICTION IN WHICH TO CONDUCT AN ARBITRATION?

Switzerland is an extremely favourable jurisdiction for arbitration and has a long-standing tradition of being one of the most frequently chosen seats for arbitrations.

I could go on for some time on this subject but, as president of the Swiss Arbitration Association (ASA), I’ll simply point you to the ‘Reference Series’ on ASA’s website. This is a series of very short documents that explain the features of arbitration in Switzerland and show why Switzerland is and will very likely remain one of the foremost arbitration venues worldwide; “The Top 10 Arguments in Favour of Swiss Arbitration” is a worthwhile read in particular.

TO WHAT EXTENT IS SECTOR AND INDUSTRY-RELATED SPECIALISATION, ON THE PART OF THE ARBITRATOR, IMPORTANT? 

Very. No-one wants to have to spend time and money explaining the basics to an arbitrator … who might then not understand.

HOW HAS THE EMERGENCE OF NEW REGIONAL ARBITRATION CENTRES AROUND THE WORLD, SUCH AS THE SIAC, HAD AN IMPACT ON THE POPULARITY OF “TRADITIONAL” ARBITRAL SEATS?

The positive impacts are more competition and a better, global level of service. The negatives are that too much salesmanship, and constantly changing and supposedly “improved” rules, undermines the clients’ trust in the quality of the process.

INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION HAS RECENTLY COME UNDER FIRE FOR THE LACK OF DIVERSITY AMONG ITS PRACTITIONERS. WHAT STEPS DO YOU BELIEVE THE COMMUNITY NEEDS TO TAKE TO OVERCOME THESE CHALLENGES?

Be brave enough to appoint more women and arbitrators from so-called “untraditional” jurisdictions (whatever “traditional” and “untraditional” may mean). But also, there is a huge need (and demand) for international training programmes in developing jurisdictions.

HOW DOES YOUR APPROACH DIFFER WHEN ACTING AS COUNSEL AS OPPOSED TO ARBITRATOR?

The two situations could hardly be more different.

When I’m counsel, my goal is – quite simply – to make sure that the client wins. That does not just mean winning the arbitration. Much more importantly, it means that the client achieves its commercial and/or policy objectives. This means developing a strategy based, first, on a clear understanding of what those objectives are; and second, knowing how to keep those objectives in mind throughout the proceedings (if needed, by adapting tactics and strategy to take into account the way the case unfolds).

Moreover, being counsel to a party in arbitration can be a high-stress situation, since it involves managing client expectations while at the same time acting on the basis of a cold-headed factual and legal analysis and, sometimes, dealing with emotional factors. But, for sure there is stress, perhaps, and sometimes disappointment. But most of all it’s thrilling.

When I’m arbitrator, there is no winner or loser. There is just getting to what the tribunal considers to be the right solution, contractually and/or legally, based on a careful examination of the factual record, in a cost- and time-efficient manner. So, in a way, it’s easier to manage in terms of stress and managing people (although it can be quite a job to manage certain parties and/or their counsel).

That said, getting to the right solution is not easy. And in arbitration, there is a huge responsibility in this respect since, in most of the jurisdictions where I sit, there is no review of the award on the merits. So you better get it damn right. That is the “stress” I experience when sitting as arbitrator.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU SHARE WITH OTHER LAWYERS WHO HOPE ONE DAY TO BE IN YOUR POSITION?

Learn multiple languages; know your contract law; learn – and then forget – civil procedure; have an open mind to other legal cultures; and work hard.

Biographies:

Who's Who Legal Arbitration: Lawyers

Elliott Geisinger heads Schellenberg Wittmer’s international arbitration group. He has acted as counsel and arbitrator in over 130 international arbitrations in complex commercial disputes involving international commercial contracts. He has also advised foreign states and Swiss corporations in investment disputes.

Elliott is particularly specialised in construction and engineering matters. He is co-founder of the Istanbul International Construction Law Conferences project, with Professor Dr Yesim Atamer of Istanbul Bilgi University (www.construction-law.bilgi.edu.tr). He is further specialised in contract management in large-scale construction and infrastructure projects.

Elliott regularly represents clients in arbitration-related court proceedings. Elliott has represented parties before the Swiss Supreme Court in several landmark cases.

Elliott's recent experience in arbitration matters includes representation, as co-counsel, for the construction consortium in several ICC proceedings relating to the enlargement of the Panama Canal; representation of the Russian Federation in investment arbitration matters in proceedings before the Swiss Supreme Court to set aside interim awards on jurisdiction under the ECT and under the Ukraine-Russia BIT; and representation of a major North African state company in proceedings relating to saltwater desalination projects.

Elliott has been president of the Swiss Arbitration Association (ASA) since 2014. Elliott is one of four arbitration experts to have advised the Swiss government on revisions to the Swiss law on international arbitration.

WWL says: Elliott Geisinger is an "excellent lawyer" who is commended by market players as a "highly qualified and very balanced arbitrator".

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Arbitration which can be purchased from our Shop.

Who's Who Legal Switzerland - Arbitration

Elliott Geisinger heads Schellenberg Wittmer’s international arbitration group. He has acted as counsel and arbitrator in over 130 international arbitrations in complex commercial disputes involving international commercial contracts. He has also advised foreign states and Swiss corporations in investment disputes.

Elliott is particularly specialised in construction and engineering matters. He is co-founder of the Istanbul International Construction Law Conferences project, with Professor Dr Yesim Atamer of Istanbul Bilgi University (www.construction-law.bilgi.edu.tr). He is further specialised in contract management in large-scale construction and infrastructure projects.

Elliott regularly represents clients in arbitration-related court proceedings. Elliott has represented parties before the Swiss Supreme Court in several landmark cases.

Elliott's recent experience in arbitration matters includes representation, as co-counsel, for the construction consortium in several ICC proceedings relating to the enlargement of the Panama Canal; representation of the Russian Federation in investment arbitration matters in proceedings before the Swiss Supreme Court to set aside interim awards on jurisdiction under the ECT and under the Ukraine-Russia BIT; and representation of a major North African state company in proceedings relating to saltwater desalination projects.

Elliott has been president of the Swiss Arbitration Association (ASA) since 2014. Elliott is one of four arbitration experts to have advised the Swiss government on revisions to the Swiss law on international arbitration.

WWL says: Elliott Geisinger is “a highly qualified and very balanced arbitrator in the Swiss market”. He acts as both counsel and arbitrator in international commercial disputes.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Switzerland which can be purchased from our Shop.

Who's Who Legal Switzerland - Construction & Real Estate

Elliott Geisinger heads Schellenberg Wittmer’s international arbitration group. He has acted as counsel and arbitrator in over 130 international arbitrations in complex commercial disputes involving international commercial contracts. He has also advised foreign states and Swiss corporations in investment disputes.

Elliott is particularly specialised in construction and engineering matters. He is co-founder of the Istanbul International Construction Law Conferences project, with Professor Dr Yesim Atamer of Istanbul Bilgi University (www.construction-law.bilgi.edu.tr). He is further specialised in contract management in large-scale construction and infrastructure projects.

Elliott regularly represents clients in arbitration-related court proceedings. Elliott has represented parties before the Swiss Supreme Court in several landmark cases.

Elliott's recent experience in arbitration matters includes representation, as co-counsel, for the construction consortium in several ICC proceedings relating to the enlargement of the Panama Canal; representation of the Russian Federation in investment arbitration matters in proceedings before the Swiss Supreme Court to set aside interim awards on jurisdiction under the ECT and under the Ukraine-Russia BIT; and representation of a major North African state company in proceedings relating to saltwater desalination projects.

Elliott has been president of the Swiss Arbitration Association (ASA) since 2014. Elliott is one of four arbitration experts to have advised the Swiss government on revisions to the Swiss law on international arbitration.

WWL says: Elliott Geisinger is "a very active player" in the Swiss real estate and construction sector, recognised for his excellent work on construction and engineering disputes.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Switzerland which can be purchased from our Shop.

Who's Who Legal Construction: Lawyers

Elliott Geisinger heads Schellenberg Wittmer’s international arbitration group. He has acted as counsel and arbitrator in over 130 international arbitrations in complex commercial disputes involving international commercial contracts. He has also advised foreign states and Swiss corporations in investment disputes.

Elliott is particularly specialised in construction and engineering matters. He is co-founder of the Istanbul International Construction Law Conferences project, with Professor Dr Yesim Atamer of Istanbul Bilgi University (www.construction-law.bilgi.edu.tr). He is further specialised in contract management in large-scale construction and infrastructure projects.

Elliott regularly represents clients in arbitration-related court proceedings. Elliott has represented parties before the Swiss Supreme Court in several landmark cases.

Elliott's recent experience in arbitration matters includes representation, as co-counsel, for the construction consortium in several ICC proceedings relating to the enlargement of the Panama Canal; representation of the Russian Federation in investment arbitration matters in proceedings before the Swiss Supreme Court to set aside interim awards on jurisdiction under the ECT and under the Ukraine-Russia BIT; and representation of a major North African state company in proceedings relating to saltwater desalination projects.

Elliott has been president of the Swiss Arbitration Association (ASA) since 2014. Elliott is one of four arbitration experts to have advised the Swiss government on revisions to the Swiss law on international arbitration.

WWL says: Elliott Geisinger achieves significant recognition as one of Switzerland's foremost arbitration specialists, with exceptional experience in the resolution of construction and engineering disputes.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Construction which can be purchased from our Shop.

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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