Roberto Dallafior is a litigation and arbitration specialist and managing partner of Nater Dallafior Rechtsanwälte AG, a Zurich law firm specialising in commercial litigation and arbitration. In his 30 years of practice, he has handled an impressive number of commercial disputes in contract and corporate matters, banking, insurance and reinsurance, (cross-border) insolvency, antitrust and public procurement, asset tracing, and international legal assistance. He acts as counsel before state courts, administrative bodies and arbitral tribunals, and as arbitrator – mainly in ICC, Swiss Rules and ad hoc proceedings.
What inspired you to pursue a legal career?
It was primarily my interest in how, and to what extent, society and its economic activity can and must be organised that inspired me to study law. Laws and regulations, and all implicit principles, were and still are the preferred mechanism to organise economic activity. I was particularly interested in the thinking behind, and the process leading, to legislation.
What do you most enjoy about working as a litigator?
Legal provisions have meaning and effect only if they are enforced. Hence, in my professional activity I developed a strong focus on making sure that the law is not just an empty word but is actually turned into facts and reality. I found out early in my career that a comprehensive establishment and thorough analysis of the facts of a case are often much more important for the outcome of a case than the legal argumentation. I always enjoyed – and still enjoy – investigating and analysing the facts and devising a winning strategy.
What qualities make for a good litigator?
A good litigation specialist will enforce his or her clients’ legal entitlements forcefully and consistently. He or she attaches great importance to an all-encompassing economic assessment, and is characterised by strategic and economic thinking, allowing him or her to best accommodate the clients’ needs. The primary objective should be to create added value, either by recovering funds, solving a problem, building a market position or reducing systemic risks. A successful litigator should further be completely unbiased and independent at all times, serving exclusively the interests of his or her clients and observing the principle pleasantly in manner and powerfully in deed.
Why did you decide to set up your own firm?
I wanted to be fully independent, which is an indispensable prerequisite for a strong and dedicated activity exclusively in the interest of the client, irrespective of other interests. A full-service firm cannot cater for the same level of independence, because of the multitude of diverging interests of different departments and their clients.
What are your main priorities for Nater Dallafior over the next five years?
My primary priority is a further specialisation. The team leaders of the new generation will need to focus even more. My vision is to further develop the set-up of different teams that deal with litigation and administrative proceedings for specific areas of law, such as banking and financial services litigation, insurance/reinsurance litigation, or corporate and commercial litigation.
Why do you think there has been an increase in insurance litigation in the past couple of years?
I identify two main reasons. First, the increase is certainly attributable to the financial crisis. In the aftermath, carriers had to struggle with their solvency. A second reason is a more general trend. While in the years prior to 2000, the European market, in particular, had a strong inclination to amicably settle disputes and generally followed a more cooperative approach, the carriers nowadays have adopted a more adversarial style that relies on disputes as a decision mechanism.
What advice would you give to younger practitioners hoping to be in your position one day?
In order to be a successful litigator or arbitrator in the future, you need to be diligent and perseverant; and to have a good grasp and understanding of commercial issues and economic reality, and the willingness to focus. Finally, yet importantly, you need the willingness to win and persuade, and the related analytical and communication skills are a prerequisite. In practical terms, we advise young lawyers to do what they are passionate about and stick to that. Then, the success is a result of doing what you really like.
Roberto Dallafior is “an excellent lawyer” and a standout name in the market. He specialises in banking and regulatory disputes, and is very highly regarded for his work in the space.
Roberto Dallafior, born in 1961, is a litigation and arbitration specialist and managing partner of Nater Dallafior, a Zurich law firm specialising in commercial litigation and arbitration.
His primary focus is on representing domestic and international clients in complex proceedings before state courts, administrative bodies and arbitral tribunals, including the coordination of disputes in different jurisdictions. He is frequently asked to act as party-appointed arbitrator or chairman in domestic or international arbitration cases.
In his 30 years of practice, he has handled numerous commercial disputes in all areas of corporate and contract law, M&A, director’s liability, inheritance, media, antitrust, insolvency disputes, banking, unfair competition, public procurement, outsourcing and international legal assistance in civil and criminal matters. Recent cases involve coverage claims in insurance matters, both in litigation and in arbitration, banking disputes including regulatory matters, director's liability and contractual damages claims.
Roberto Dallafior is a member of the Zurich and Swiss Bar Associations, the Swiss Arbitration Association, the International Bar Association, the International Chamber of Commerce and the London Court of International Arbitration.
Roberto Dallafior studied at the University of Zurich (Dr iur 1990) and was admitted to the Bar in 1990. In 1992, he obtained his Diploma in Advanced European Legal Studies at the College of Europe. He worked as a foreign associate with Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in Brussels; with Brosio, Casati & Associati in Milan; and for several years as associate with Homburger Rechtsanwälte in Zurich before starting his own practice.
Roberto Dallafior was raised bilingual in German and Italian. He is equally fluent in English, has a good working knowledge of French and is able to work in Spanish.