George M von Mehren
Office:
7 Devonshire Square
EC2M 4YH
City:
London
Country:
England
Tel:
+44 20 7655 1395

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Arbitration

George von Mehren leads the international dispute resolution group at Squire Patton Boggs. With more than 40 years of experience in complex adversarial proceedings, George acts as counsel in disputes involving the sale and purchase of natural gas and LNG and has extensive experience in a variety of commercial and treaty disputes.

DESCRIBE YOUR CAREER TO DATE.

Following my studies at Harvard and Cambridge Universities, I was first admitted in Ohio back in 1977. The early days of my career were spent as a US trial attorney mainly acting for American and European companies. I handled my first international arbitration case about 25 years ago for a Korean automobile manufacturer. I have been a registered foreign lawyer in England and Wales since 2003. Probably the most important event in my career was my law firm’s decision, in 1998, to form an international dispute resolution practice and to ask me to lead it.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST MEMORABLE CASE YOU HAVE WORKED ON?

I have been honoured to work on many important cases for my clients. I am particularly proud of several: a case in 2004 for a European LNG buyer that, for the first time, dealt with a price review in the context of liberalisation of the gas market in a European country; a current case for a Chinese liquefied natural gas (LNG) buyer; and a variety of investor-state disputes that I have handled for the Czech Republic and Ecuador.

YOU HAVE SIGNIFICANT EXPERTISE IN NATURAL GAS AND LNG DISPUTES. WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THIS AREA OF LAW?

These cases are very challenging and satisfying because they are legally and factually complex. For buyers (I only represent buyers), the economic stakes are often very significant. I have also been lucky enough over the years to work with individuals at many client firms who have become very good friends.

HOW HAS THE PRACTICE OF INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION CHANGED OVER THE COURSE OF YOUR CAREER?

International arbitration has grown exponentially. The technical aspects of many of these disputes demand a sophisticated tribunal with the expertise and experience required, coupled with the neutrality offered. On the practical level, the rules of many of the leading arbitral institutions have adopted over the years to address the needs of the ever-evolving international arbitration process – the Emergency Arbitration provisions in the ICC Rules are just one example.

HOW HAVE LAW FIRMS ALTERED THEIR APPROACH TO DISPUTE RESOLUTION TO REFLECT THE INCREASING IMPORTANCE OF INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION?

The resources committed to the international arbitration practices at most firms have also grown exponentially. Many more lawyers are involved. Most law firms have arbitration lawyers in most of their offices. Lawyers are specialising in particular areas of arbitration. International arbitration has become a very popular career path and the arbitration groups at most firms have become far more diverse than was previously the case.

TO WHAT EXTENT HAS INCREASED USE OF ARBITRATION IN EMERGING MARKETS IMPACTED YOUR PRACTICE?

Arbitration is an effective way of entering many emerging markets. Disputes are governed by arbitration agreements or investor-state arbitration treaties and clients in those emerging markets have often tended to reach out to arbitration specialists from other countries. At Squire Patton Boggs, we have been and are privileged to work for many sovereign nations in the field of international arbitration. I am very proud of the work we have undertaken particularly in Eastern Europe (since the early 1990s), Latin America and Africa.

YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE WORKING IN DISPUTES AROUND THE WORLD. WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES FACED WHEN WORKING WITH PARTIES FROM DIVERSE BUSINESS AND LEGAL CULTURES?

To be an effective advocate, one needs to understand one’s clients in the context of their business and legal cultures. I like to listen carefully and involve clients as much as possible in the process of developing a case. I think very critically about the conclusions that I am making – are they accurate or just the product of my own, very different background? While the process is challenging, it is also one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.

AS FOUNDER AND HEAD OF SQUIRE PATTON BOGGS’ DISPUTE RESOLUTION TEAM, HOW DO YOU EXPECT THE PRACTICE TO DEVELOP OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?

We will continue to grow significantly – especially outside Europe. When we began in 1998, there were three members of the team, all based in US offices. We now have over 100 lawyers. More and more, our lawyers will have backgrounds from Asia, Africa and Latin America. But, as we get bigger, I am confident that some things will not change. We have always insisted on effective teamwork among all our lawyers, wherever they are based, to provide excellent legal services to our clients. All of our partners are committed to that and it will continue. 

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