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Rouven F Bodenheimer

Rouven F Bodenheimer

Bodenheimer HerzbergTorhaus Gerling QuartierVon-Werth-Str. 2CologneGermany50670

Thought Leader

Thought Leaders - Arbitration 2020

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Rouven Bodenheimer is praised for his “hands-on approach” to contentious proceedings and is singled out by sources as “the best young arbitrator in Germany”.

Questions & Answers

Dr Rouven F Bodenheimer is co-founder of Bodenheimer Herzberg, a law firm specialised in international dispute resolution. He has acted in many domestic and international arbitration cases, as both party counsel and arbitrator. Rouven has significant experience in institutional and ad hoc arbitration, dispute adjudication and mediation. He is a fellow (FCIArb) and chartered arbitrator (CArb) of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. He lectures on mediation and international arbitration for master’s degree programmes at two prestigious German universities.

How does your role as a lecturer enhance your work in private practice?

First of all, I just love to fascinate others with what I am fond of. This is the mindset that has helped me most, as both lecturer and counsel: it helps you tremendously to realise that what you want to convey is not necessarily what your audience has waited for their entire life. It allows you to engage, to fascinate others, to reflect, to convince (and win cases), and finally to grow. 

Lecturing allows you to deal with issues that aren’t fully addressed in daily practice – such as the fundamentals of our practice – and to consider matters further, beyond the daily necessities. My role as a lecturer gives me the opportunity to discuss my innovative ideas with many bright minds; this broadens my horizon and gives me perspective – and, of course, enhances my work in private practice and adds to my reputation as an innovative arbitration practitioner. 

What is the biggest issue that arbitration must address if it wishes to keep growing and improving its efficiency as a form of dispute resolution?

We must reduce the users’ bad experiences and remain open to improvement. I still see a lot of practices that have only one justification: “We have always done it this way.” Solving disputes in general, and using arbitration in particular, is more a craft requiring practical experience than a science that can only be mastered by study. Here, we must not blindly follow the senior practitioners and their best practice, but rather challenge our processes and the way we handle disputes. Best practice in arbitration very often does not equal best practice for the one specific dispute in front of us. This applies to some institutions operating in the market as well. We need to leave our comfort zone in order to improve the process and its reputation.

What is your contribution to increased efficiency in arbitration?

Practising what I preach, I constantly try to reflect on anything our team or I do. Over the past few years I have developed a technique that I strongly believe adds to efficiency in international arbitration. Whenever acting as sole arbitrator or chairman of an arbitral tribunal, I introduce the case with a visual aid such as PowerPoint. I summarise the submissions in detail and – if need be – restructure them in accordance with the legal requirements of the respective claims. This serves several goals: parties save time, as they do not need to repeat all submissions in their openings; parties gain trust as they evidence a soundly prepared tribunal; parties see the tribunal’s focus point; parties can correct or recentre the tribunal’s focus in a face-saving manner; parties can refer to neutral sources, such as timelines and the sequence of events in their upcoming pleadings; co-arbitrators are completely updated, even when not fully prepared; and, last but not least, every hearing starts with a setting that is, psychologically, slightly different, as parties do not confront each other but start by facing in the same direction – towards the screen where the presentation is displayed. Feedback from parties and co-arbitrators was always overwhelming.

What is the most memorable dispute you have worked on?

In general, it is always the last one. Recently, I acted as sole arbitrator under the rules of an international arbitration institution. The seat was England, and the applicable law was that of an Asian country. I had already handled many cases as arbitrator. The dispute is memorable for three reasons. First, I felt extremely honoured to be jointly appointed by two parties from outside Europe, both represented by major international law firms. Second, I experienced a dispute where all counsel involved fought hard but always with utmost respect and professionalism. And third, I really experienced the often-told but never-before-seen “smoking gun”: a counsel turned the case in an amazing cross-examination.

What do you think will be the greatest challenge facing the next generation of arbitration lawyers?

First, I think that chances will prevail over challenges: I see an increasingly globalised world, with clients being more aware of the need for means to settle disputes beyond national borders and an amazingly well-trained and internationally versed generation. Further, AI will be more of a helpful tool than a challenge. 

The challenges might be to remain critical of both how we structure dispute resolution mechanisms, and  institutions and the players we perceive as well established. The upcoming generation seems to forget that no dispute takes place in a parallel universe. All disputes deal with a substantive matter. That generation must ensure they are well versed in a substantive field, as this will allow them to handle disputes efficiently.

How do you see your practice developing over the next five years?

We just celebrated our third anniversary at the firm. After a quick growth to 12 lawyers within two years, we focused on consolidation in year three – which is when we took the first lateral partner on board. With Björn Gehle our team strengthens its ties to the Arab region and to South East Asia. Having reached the critical mass to handle large cases as counsel without our team being prevented from working as arbitrators, Bodenheimer Herzberg will grow further. But maintaining the high quality and a work environment that everyone enjoys will be paramount. Even though arbitrator work increases constantly, I personally hope to maintain my counsel practice as this is what adding value in arbitration is about: practitioners who know both sides of the table. 

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Rouven Bodenheimer is a specialist in construction dispute resolution, praised by peers across Europe who say, “Lawyers do not come any smarter.”

Questions & Answers

Dr Bodenheimer has specialised in international construction law since the early days of his career. He advises clients on structuring and financing construction projects; drafting and negotiating contracts; monitoring procurement proceedings; and advising during the entire construction period. His experience helps him in his main field of activity: acting as both counsel and neutral in all kinds of dispute resolution, foremost arbitration. He is a fellow (FCIArb) and chartered arbitrator (CArb), and currently serves as membership officer of the IBA’s international construction projects committee.

Why did you first decide to become a lawyer?

Studying law was first of all a compromise, and a match of both expectations as to the study and the profession. I have found it enjoyable to study sports and history, but could not imagine working in this field. I still love the idea of working as psychologist but did not enjoy the idea of studying it. As to law, I was sure that I would enjoy both studying the subject and working in the profession.

Today, working in the field of disputes and large construction projects allows me to combine both an international work environment and legally challenging work.

You hold a PhD pertaining to trade law. How has this helped to shape your career?

Completing a doctoral thesis demonstrates above all one thing: the ability to finish a task based not on necessity or external pressure, but your own will. It is this challenge I consider the most useful with a PhD thesis in the field of law.

My thesis deals with general terms and conditions between businesses – a topic that still enjoys a lot of practical relevance. The key feature is that I dealt with both English and German law, which has helped me a lot in working under different civil law and common law regimes.

What challenges do technical cases raise and how do you overcome these?

The challenge in truly technical cases is mainly that of chance, which is a key feature in construction matters. You cannot enjoy handling construction cases without enjoying having to deal with technicalities. Where the law meets the engineering and technical sides is where you can make a distinction – for your clients and the arbitrators as counsel, and for all parties involved when acting as arbitrator.

The key to overcoming such challenges is to approach each problem in a broad manner by including technical input from the very beginning. Often the solution is easy once you’ve got the technical aspects right.

When it comes to the composition of a dispute board or an arbitral tribunal, I have found it useful to have mixed panels comprising quantity surveyors or engineers, and lawyers.

In construction arbitration you have experience as counsel, chairman and arbitrator (both sole and co-arbitrator). Does experience in one role assist in the performance of another?

I believe practical experience in each of those roles constantly nourishes the others. For example, I had the opportunity to work on disputes as counsel of numerous different stakeholders, eg, contractors and employers, very closely, and to see unfiltered what actually happens behind the scenes, and all the issues that may be encountered in similar circumstances. Thanks to having seen behind the scenes and experienced those different perspectives, I, as a decision-maker, feel that I can approach a dispute more empathetically towards parties and counsel. Experiencing both sides of the table is in my view key to adding value to the entire concept of arbitration.

You speak four languages. How important has multilingualism become in international arbitration?

English is the common language not only of globalisation but also of international arbitration and international projects; the more languages you speak, the more parties consider you a cost-efficient arbitrator and counsel. It is true that the parties tend to choose English as their language during their contractual relations; the evidence submitted in an international arbitral proceeding is often in another (local) language (of a party), and parties do appreciate it if an arbitrator or counsel does not need to have all those documents translated. Intercultural awareness begins with using language mindfully, and with being aware of language issues and potential misunderstandings in a context where native and, more often than not, non-native speakers struggle with finding common denominators for concepts that sometimes seem close to each other but aren’t, or vice versa. To communicate in another’s language opens many doors, makes you truly understand things better, and more often than not assists in solving controversies.

You are a lecturer and frequent writer on matters of dispute resolution. How have these roles impacted upon your work in practice?

Teaching assignments and publication projects keep me up to date on different topics I work on, and help me constantly meet and reach out to new law practitioners active in different fields, which gives me different insights all the time. Only when you can convey knowledge of, and fascinate others with, your field have you have truly understood it yourself.

What challenges will the construction industry face in the coming years?

An exemplary challenge for companies actively constructing in foreign countries could be that as a consequence of the ECJ’s Achmea judgment, the future of (intra-EU) investment arbitration is at risk, which will most probably change to a different resolution mechanism. Construction companies better keep that in mind while deciding to invest in a foreign country.

A huge challenge and, at the same time an opportunity, is technical development. I am specifically thinking of smart contracts and their potential impact on both the industry itself and the advising community.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Rouven Bodenheimer is praised for his “hands-on approach” to contentious proceedings and is singled out by sources as “the best young arbitrator in Germany”.

Questions & Answers

Rouven Bodenheimer is co-founder of Bodenheimer Herzberg, a law firm specialised in international dispute resolution. He has acted in many domestic and international arbitration cases, as both party counsel and arbitrator. He also advises on conflict avoidance strategies and acts as mediator in complex commercial matters. Rouven has significant experience in institutional and ad hoc arbitration, dispute adjudication and mediation. He is a fellow (FCIArb) and chartered arbitrator (CArb) of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. He lectures regulary on mediation and international arbitration for master’s degree programmes at two prestigious German universities.

What do you enjoy most about practising in the arbitration space?

One of the aspects I enjoy the most is that it acts as a meeting point for different legal cultures. It allows practitioners from different backgrounds to create new, mixed practices by combining different elements of, eg, common law and civil law traditions. Crafting a unique solution that is specific to the facts and circumstances of each case, along with my foreign colleagues, is always a very rewarding and interesting experience.

Your practice is very international. How are you seeing demand from different jurisdictions change?

The demand for arbitration has been growing steadily over the past few decades all over the world, especially by Asia-based companies and in Asia-related transactions. This correlates with the increasing number of cases administered by Asia-based arbitral institutions. The number of sophisticated colleagues from Asia has increased as well. Interestingly, whereas in the past the majority of Asian parties tended to be in the position of respondent, I now see more and more cases where continental European parties are put in that position.

What are the most common sources of construction disputes?

Some of the most common sources of construction disputes are conflicts over quality (of the construction itself and of the materials used), timeline delays and abandonment, in addition to standard disputes over payments. While delays in timelines are an inevitable part of the construction sector, a sharper focus on removing ambiguity from the contract at the very beginning would be a good place to start. A properly drafted scope of works, along with a well-defined payment clause and a dispute resolution clause catering to the complexity of the construction sector, would go a long way towards minimising risks for clients.

A completely different approach I have been promoting for years is to shift from

a dispute-ridden understanding of contractual relationships to a more partner-like spirit among all stakeholders in a large construction project. Implementing specific structures and a joint understanding at the outset has proven to significantly enhance cost savings and ensure greater satisfaction of all parties involved.

In your opinion, are clients becoming more persuaded by the benefits of alternative dispute resolution (ADR)?

While costs and delay may still be considered an issue of arbitration by our clients, they are getting more and more used to ADR. In light of growing international transactions and the cross-border disputes arising therefrom, ADR methods that are far more flexible than court litigation, and that give the parties more control over the process and the results, are deemed favourable. One of the benefits that our clients get from ADR is the opportunity to preserve a business relationship with negotiation or mediation. The option to keep all proceedings confidential gives the parties a chance to focus on the outcome of a dispute without any concern for public impact.

What inspired you to set up your own firm and what challenges did you face?

One thing that inspired me was the idea of creating a one-stop destination for complex disputes. Our international and specialised resources allow us to act not only as party counsel in litigation, arbitration, mediation and other ADR proceedings, but also as arbitrator or mediator, or in other capacities, in all kinds of international disputes – without the conflicts seen in a larger firm. Keeping up with technology is one of the bigger challenges that we face. It is constantly evolving, with many legal technology solutions being introduced every year. It takes time to test these solutions and identify which ones work best for us.

What changes are you seeing in terms of competition in the market?

One recent change in the market has been a healthy increase in standards of a work-life balance. In the past, law firms had a notorious habit of engaging their younger associates in a “sweatshop” sort of environment. At Bodenheimer Herzberg, we believe in ensuring that our younger associates have the time to not only to give their best at work, but also to enjoy the best of life outside work. The number of mothers in our team, and the spirit of encouragement to allow for individual concepts of work-life balance, reflect this approach.

What are the key challenges younger construction lawyers may face in their practice?

One of the more challenging tasks for young lawyers is how to harness technology and sustainability in their field. With respect to construction, young lawyers will need to consider integrating technology and intellectual property into construction projects while incorporating clean energy and green initiatives. I do not believe that there is any straitjacket formula to tackle these challenges. What I can suggest is that young construction lawyers keep in mind that, given growing environmental concerns, sustainability is key and that there are no shortcuts in that regard. Hence, a profound dedication to detail and technical complexity is vital.

Last year you mentioned you would like to accept more teaching assignments to share your experiences with younger practitioners. Have you found this a valuable experience?

Interacting with younger practitioners is always an enriching and rewarding experience. They have a penchant for trying something new, which allows them to solve problems in a more creative way. That can end up as a positive solution for a client.

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended
Construction 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Rouven Bodenheimer has deep expertise in construction arbitration, where he is "uniformly excellent as both counsel and arbitrator".

Biography

Dr Rouven Bodenheimer specialises in conflict resolution and primarily renders advice on construction law. Besides civil court proceedings he has been involved in numerous arbitration cases governed institutionally (DIS, ICC, LCIA, SCC, DIAC, VIAC, DIA, CAS and CEAC) as well as ad hoc arbitration. He has garnered significant experience as co-arbitrator, sole arbitrator, chairman and counsel in various arbitration proceedings, both domestically and internationally. He is particularly experienced in disputes involving difficult technical issues and large infrastructure projects. His expertise lies in fields as diverse as infrastructure, energy, construction and PPP projects.

Upon completing his formal legal education, Dr Bodenheimer published a doctoral thesis on a trade law topic in a comparative perspective under German and English law and obtained an additional master's degree in business mediation.

Dr Bodenheimer lectures on mediation and international arbitration at different prestigious German universities.

Dr Bodenheimer regularly publishes articles, book reviews and book contributions in the field of international arbitration and dispute resolution.

Dr Bodenheimer served as co-chair of the DIS40, the under-40 member organisation of the German Institution for Arbitration. He is an active member of the International Bar Association's arbitration committee, and within that he was a founding member of the steering committee of the under-40 arbitration group. He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (FCIArb) and a Chartered Arbitrator (C.Arb).

Peer-appointed, he is considered as one of the future leaders in international arbitration.

Dr Bodenheimer speaks German, English, Dutch and French.

National Leader

Germany - Arbitration 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Rouven Bodenheimer is praised for his “hands-on approach” to contentious proceedings and is singled out by sources as “the best young arbitrator in Germany”.

Biography

Dr Rouven F Bodenheimer, MA FCIArb CArb is co-founder of BODENHEIMER HERZBERG, a law firm specialising in international dispute resolution.

Dr Rouven Bodenheimer specialises in conflict resolution and advises on corporate law and construction law. Besides civil court proceedings, he has been involved in numerous arbitration cases governed institutionally (DIS, ICC, LCIA, SCC, DIAC, VIAC, DIA, CAS and CEAC) as well as ad hoc arbitration. He has garnered significant experience as co-arbitrator, sole arbitrator, chairman and counsel in various arbitration proceedings both domestically and internationally. He is particularly experienced in disputes involving difficult technical issues and complex commercial aspects. His expertise lies in fields as diverse as infrastructure, energy, construction and intricate financial transactions.

Due to his vast experience in both common law and civil law related matters, he is specifically sought-after as counsel and arbitrator in international disputes. Many cases involved parties and projects in the Asia-Pacific region, which have led him to develop a profound intercultural understanding with a view to different legal traditions.

Dr Bodenheimer served as professor for international law (2015) and is today a highly sought-after speaker at conferences around the world. He lectures dispute resolution at multiple universities. He is a fellow (FCIArb) and chartered arbitrator (CArb) of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. Dr Bodenheimer served as co-chair of the DIS40, the organisation for arbitrators aged 40 and under, which is part of the German Institution for Arbitration. He is an active member of the International Bar Association's arbitration committee, and within that he was a founding member of the steering committee of the under-40 arbitration group. Peer-appointed, he is considered one of the future leaders in international arbitration.

Dr Bodenheimer speaks German, English, Dutch and French.

Germany - Construction 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Rouven Bodenheimer is a “very smart” lawyer who excels when it comes to handling high-value construction disputes.

Biography

Dr Rouven F Bodenheimer, MA FCIArb CArb is co-founder of BODENHEIMER HERZBERG, a law firm specialising on international dispute resolution. Dr Rouven Bodenheimer specialises in conflict resolution and advises on corporate law and construction law. Besides civil court proceedings, he has been involved in numerous arbitration cases governed institutionally (DIS, ICC, LCIA, SCC, DIAC, VIAC, DIA, CAS and CEAC) as well as ad hoc arbitration. He has garnered significant experience as co-arbitrator, sole arbitrator, chairman and counsel in various arbitration proceedings both domestically and internationally.

Due to his vast experience in both common law and civil law related matters, he is specifically sought-after as counsel and arbitrator in international disputes. Many cases involved parties and projects in the Asia-Pacific region, which have led him to develop a profound intercultural understanding with a view to different legal traditions.

He has advised a wide variety of clients on civil engineering, process and building projects in a wide variety of jurisdictions. He also has extensive experience of FIDIC and various standard and ad hoc forms of contract and has lately worked on disputes arising from infrastructure and energy projects in the Middle East, South East Asia and Europe.

Dr Bodenheimer served as professor for international law (2015) and is today a highly sought-after speaker at conferences around the world. He lectures dispute resolution at multiple universities. He is a fellow (FCIArb) and chartered arbitrator (CArb) of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

Dr Bodenheimer is an active member of the International Bar Association's international construction projects committee, within that he currently serves as membership officer.

Dr Bodenheimer speaks German, English, Dutch and French.

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