Tobias Zuberbühler
Office:
Wiesenstrasse 10
PO Box
CH-8032
City:
Zurich
State:
Zurich
Country:
Switzerland
Tel:
+41 44 387 19 00
Fax:
+41 44 387 19 66

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Arbitration

Tobias is a partner at the dispute resolution boutique Lustenberger Attorneys. He has acted as arbitrator and counsel in more than 50 international and domestic arbitration proceedings over the last 20 years. Tobias has also rendered more than 200 UDRP decisions as WIPO domain name panellist. He is the initiator and co-editor of the Commentary on the Swiss Rules of International Arbitration (second edition, 2013) and “impresses commentators with his no-nonsense approach” (Who’s Who Legal: Arbitration, 2018).

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO SPECIALISE IN ARBITRATION?

I never really planned for a career in arbitration, but started working for one of the big names in Switzerland after my postgraduate studies in the US and soon got hooked by the diverse and complex international disputes and cross-cultural issues. I should also admit that it would have been a challenge to support the four kids I was raising at the time with my original interest – international environmental law and international human rights.

DESCRIBE THE GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE.

Having had the courage to step out of the big shadow of my mentor at the age of 36, building up our arbitration boutique with friends during the last 12 years, and never losing my joie de vivre along the way.

HOW DOES PRACTISING AS BOTH ARBITRATOR AND COUNSEL AFFECT YOUR APPROACH TO EACH ROLE?

The experience in both roles definitely has a sobering effect during discussions on timetables. Still, I sometimes cannot help thinking “Why does counsel need 10 weeks for a reply?” (as arbitrator) or “How am I supposed to deliver this in five days?” (as counsel).

HOW DOES YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A WORLD INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ORGANIZATION DOMAIN NAME PANELLIST ADD TO YOUR DISPUTE RESOLUTION ABILITIES IN OTHER AREAS OF LAW?

WIPO domain name proceedings are quite a different beast and cannot seriously be compared to international commercial arbitration. Nonetheless, it has been interesting to watch how successful online dispute resolution can be (close to 40,000 decisions have been rendered by WIPO panellists since 1999). Also, the deadline of 14 days to render decisions in WIPO proceedings teaches me to focus on the very core of a dispute.

HAVE YOU NOTICED A SHIFT IN WHICH MARKETS HAVE BEEN PARTICULARLY ACTIVE FOR DISPUTES?

I have experienced a shift towards Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, leading to more challenging, but also more interesting cases.

TO WHAT EXTENT ARE ARBITRATION PROCEEDINGS BECOMING MORE EFFICIENT?

Because what I would call the “Americanisation” of international arbitration (over-lawyering, excessive production requests, inflation of procedural motions) has frustrated everyone in the last years, users are looking more and more towards (civil law) methods to substantially reduce costs such as tribunal-assisted settlement, (one) tribunal-appointed expert (instead of costly battles of party-appointed experts), etc. Of course, common law also offers some interesting tools to consider, such as summary disposition and innovative online dispute resolution platforms.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES AND CHALLENGES OF OPERATING FROM A BOUTIQUE FIRM?

In a boutique, you have fewer conflicts of interests and fewer conflicts with other partners. Our clients also appreciate that a substantial part of the work is still provided by experienced partners. The challenge is that you basically “eat what you kill”, so there is no “automatic” flow of disputes as in the big firms and every one of us has to go out there hunting for the T-bone steaks.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUNGER PRACTITIONERS SEEKING TO BUILD A CAREER IN THE ARBITRATION PROFESSION?

Find a good mentor and learn from him or her. At the same time, you need to be given the opportunity to build up a network of arbitration friends in your age and younger. They will be the ones appointing you later in your career.

Biography:

Who's Who Legal Arbitration: Lawyers

Tobias Zuberbühler is a partner in the arbitration and litigation team at Lustenberger Rechtsanwälte, with 20 years of experience in dispute resolution. He has acted as arbitrator and counsel in more than 50 international and domestic arbitration proceedings, under both ad hoc and institutional rules (ICC, Swiss Rules, DIS and UNCITRAL). His industry experience is mainly in the areas of construction, transport, finance, commodity trading, pharmaceuticals, international sales, joint ventures, agency/distribution and intellectual property. Tobias is a WIPO domain-name panellist and has rendered over 200 UDRP decisions.

Tobias graduated from the University of Zurich law school in 1994 (lic iur) and holds an LLM in international legal studies from Golden Gate University, San Francisco (1996). He is fluent in German, English (seven years in the United States) and French.

Tobias is the initiator and co-editor of the Commentary on the Swiss Rules of International Arbitration (second edition, 2013) and co-author of a commentary on the IBA Rules of Evidence. He is a regular speaker at international conferences in the field of arbitration.

Tobias is past president of the arbitration commission of AIJA; co-founder of the marketing committee of the Swiss Arbitration Association; and a member of the American Bar Association section for international law and the German Institution of Arbitration (DIS).

WWL says: Tobias Zuberbühler is a leading figure in the field who "while being one of the most experienced names in Swiss arbitration, is young and flexible in his mind".

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

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