Who's Who Legal
Who's Who Legal
New to Who's Who Legal?
New to Who's Who Legal?
Menu
User Menu
New to Who's Who Legal?
Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Thought Leader

Thought Leaders - Arbitration 2020

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Simon Gabriel is “one of the leaders in the field”, highlighted for his “strong advocacy skills”.  Sources add: “He is deeply knowledgeable about arbitration.”

Questions & Answers

Simon is the founder of the Swiss arbitration law firm Gabriel Arbitration AG in Zurich. He has participated in over 90 international arbitration proceedings as chairman, co-arbitrator, sole arbitrator and legal counsel. Simon is admitted to all Swiss courts, and holds a PhD in dispute resolution and an LLM in common law advocacy. He is member of the Swiss ICC Arbitration Commission and is endorsed by various arbitrator panels and legal directories.

What inspired you to pursue a career in international arbitration? 

To be frank, it was a combination of the Willem C Vis Moot Court in Vienna and US lawyer movies. One needs to know that oral advocacy in Swiss state courts is rather lazy: the judge asks the witnesses, if any, all the relevant questions first and only thereafter may counsel ask a limited number of additional questions under the control of the judge.

This is not how I imagined advocacy work as a young lawyer, and when I learned that even a Swiss lawyer can participate in more adversarial-style proceedings when doing international arbitration I wanted to do just that. 

Has the covid-19 pandemic had an impact on commercial arbitration? Are parties willing to be flexible in procedure and approach to get it over the line?

The impact is considerable. In-person hearings have been impossible for several months and virtual alternatives are not quite ready, yet – at least not for bigger cases with numerous participants.

In my experience so far, parties have been willing to try virtual alternatives in smaller cases, with merely five to 10 participants, or where no witness-examination was required. In bigger cases, there is, however, a certain reluctance to depart from the traditional hearing format. 

What procedural issues do you see arising from covid-19 where the majority of participants continue to live under lockdown?

In situations where parties and the tribunal initially agree on a virtual hearing, I see difficult procedural issues, if the hearing faces technical difficulties. If a party’s cross-examination is, for example, interrupted at various times due to connection issues, and this party then objects to the quality of the virtual platform, it will be hard to find a sensible remedy. Should the examination be repeated? Or was that just bad luck? And how can one be sure that any bad connections were not fuelled by unmanageable witnesses? These are new and very delicate issues.   

Over the years, international arbitration has come under fire for the lack of diversity among its practitioners. How far has this issue been addressed and what steps do you believe the community still needs to take to overcome these challenges? 

If I think of my generation and the younger generation in Switzerland, it appears to me that, for example gender-wise, women and men are equally successful and rightly so. I am therefore optimistic that any still-existing inequalities will fade out in the coming years.

Age-wise, I see increasingly younger colleagues who are very successful as counsel and also as arbitrators. Times when an arbitrator had to be over 60 years old are definitely over.

Most importantly, in my view, everybody should focus on excellent work quality in arbitration as this is, in the end, the product we sell. Many of our clients do not care whether their lawyer is young or old, female or male. They insist on the maximum of convincing legal briefs and presentations at the hearings, and I think they are right to do so for the price they pay for ink on paper. 

What role do you see third-party funders playing in arbitration moving forward?

They play an important role by enabling parties to have their promising cases adjudicated, irrespective of funds freely available for potentially costly arbitration proceedings. At the same time, they are very picky when it comes to accepting cases. 

Should more be done to improve the transparency of arbitration proceedings?

I think the market should decide that. In 2018, I suggested at the Vienna Arbitration Days that a fully transparent “open arbitration institution” should be founded, in order to see whether it matches its competitors – and I even proposed some marketing slogans. Maybe I will found it myself someday.  

If you could implement one reform in international arbitration, what would it be? 

It is more an invention than a reform: I would want to invent a scientifically reliable tool to measure the quality of arbitrators’ work and publish the results. It would help the parties to make their choices, and arbitrators would be extra-motivated to be as well-prepared and accurate as possible.  

What is the best piece of career advice you have received? 

“Don’t be too eager!” It is on a slide by Dr Bernhard Meyer in our joint session, called “How to Become an Arbitrator”, at the Swiss Arbitration Academy. It is meant as piece of advice for the students, but it has also helped me to make some important decisions in the past: I remember, for example, an attractive emergency arbitrator case worth millions, where I had a very minor disclosure to make, and I knew that I would hardly get that case if I made that disclosure. I remembered Bernhard Meyer, and nevertheless disclosed. Even though I did not get the case at the time, I am sure that this was the right decision in the long run.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Simon Gabriel is “a sharp and bright arbitrator and party representative” who is recognised for his “profound knowledge of the law”. One source says, “He is my number one choice in Switzerland.”

Questions & Answers

Simon is the founder of Gabriel Arbitration in Zurich. He has participated in over 80 international arbitration proceedings as chairman, co-arbitrator, sole arbitrator and legal counsel. Simon, admitted to all Swiss courts, holds a PhD in dispute resolution and an LLM in common law advocacy. Before opening his firm in 2012, he worked in the arbitration team of an international law firm. Simon is the Swiss delegate at the ICC Arbitration Commission and is endorsed by many arbitrator panels.

Describe your career to date.

I studied law in Switzerland, Canada and the UK; completed my PhD in Lucerne, Switzerland; and started as an associate in a major international law firm in Zurich.

When I experienced the conflict-of interest-problems at big law firms, I decided to open my own shop and become available in cases where everybody else had conflicts.

This idea came at the right time, and with a bit of luck Gabriel Arbitration has been growing ever since.

What did you find most challenging about starting your own firm?

As a young solo practitioner you do not have any opportunity for cross-selling. I had clients asking me for M&A services that I did not offer, but at the same time there wasn’t an M&A department, with returning clients, that sent arbitration cases to me.

That is a new challenge when you come from a big full-service law firm.

On what types of matters do clients come to you most frequently at present?

Personally, I sit in various cases as arbitrator at the moment. Increasingly, more senior colleagues tend to choose me as chair, if they need somebody who is already experienced, but still motivated to do the legwork.

As counsel, I have recently represented, with my team, cases concerning international sales, infrastructure projects, energy and post-M&A issues.   

What are the most significant trends affecting arbitration?

The focus on the highest degree of independence for arbitrators is currently strong, and in particular advocated by the ICC.

The instrument of security for costs enjoys increasing interest against the background of an increase in third-party funding. Institutions such as VIAC and SCC have recently adopted rules in this regard.

And, of course, diversity remains a huge issue in and beyond the arbitration community.

Switzerland has an interesting style for witness hearings. How does the common law examination approach translate to proceedings in civil law countries?

Indeed, I have experienced a Swiss chairman who interrupted counsel during cross-examination and stated: “Could you please ask more open questions? I am tired of hearing this witness just saying ‘yes’ all the time.”

This anecdote illustrates how different the expectations of a persuasive cross-examination can be. In my experience, it is useful in Swiss hearings, with Swiss arbitrators, to mix the classic closed cross-examination questions with some open questions, just to show that one is not afraid of the witness’s answers. It goes without saying that the topics for these open questions must be carefully chosen and the relevant parts of the cross-examination must still be in closed questions.

Such a mix is, in any event, more favourable than the chair ordering that all questions should be asked in an open manner.

How do you think arbitration will change over the next five years?

Arbitration will (and has to) become more efficient.

Medium-sized parties in medium-sized cases, in particular, are fed up with huge legal teams making a fuss about every potential procedural eventuality. The problem is that arbitrators often shy away from being proactive in the organisation of the proceedings – they fear that they may affront the parties, who should be the masters of their case. Parties’ counsel, at the same time, are not prepared to agree on efficient procedural measures as this might backfire at a later stage, and they might be blamed for that by their own clients. Therefore, they typically agree on the safest way forward, which is rarely the most efficient one. In this environment, new ideas for pro-active arbitrators pop up such as the recent Prague Rules.

In my view, the ability of international arbitration to become more efficient will be key for a positive development of this dispute resolution method in the coming years.

What distinguishes your firm from others in the market?

Gabriel Arbitration is one of very few law firms in Zurich that exclusively specialises in arbitration, and it communicates this specialisation in its trade name. 

As a result of this high degree of specialisation, we can offer small and powerful teams where typically two experienced persons are responsible for an entire case. These two define the strategy, implement it and personally know the file by heart. Furthermore, they are available and able to discuss the case with the client at any time.

This approach is, in my view, one of maximum efficiency.

What is your proudest achievement to date?

Apart from having learned to dance the Argentine tango (which I thought I could never do), my proudest achievement is the successful “greenfield” founding of an arbitration law firm in Zurich.

Global Leader

Arbitration 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Simon Gabriel is “very pragmatic counsel” compliment peers, one of whom says, “If I had a personal arbitration dispute myself, I would take Simon as my counsel.”

Biography

Dr Simon Gabriel specialises in international arbitration and has participated in more than 80 international arbitration proceedings. He is founder of the Zurich-based arbitration boutique law firm Gabriel Arbitration, and is thus entirely independent. He is also a lecturer in international arbitration at the University of Lucerne (master's degree, advocacy course and the Swiss Arbitration Academy).

Simon is regularly appointed as arbitrator in proceedings governed by ICC Rules, Swiss Rules, Vienna Rules and DIS Rules.

Furthermore, Simon and his team have represented parties in arbitration proceedings under ICC Rules, Swiss Rules, Vienna Rules, DIS Rules, SCC Rules, and ad hoc rules. In terms of amounts in dispute Simon’s experience ranges from US$700,000 to US$120 million.

Simon is particularly experienced in disputes concerning construction consortia, energy, international sales contracts, licensing contracts and post-M&A issues.

He is a member of the Swiss ICC Arbitration Commission and Swiss delegate in the ICC Arbitration Commission in Paris. Simon is also endorsed on the following panels of arbitrators: ICC Switzerland, Austrian VIAC, Russian Arbitration Association and Asian Institute of Alternative Dispute Resolution. He was also a member of the working group for the revision of the Vienna Rules in 2018.

Simon studied law at the Universities of Berne and British Columbia, Vancouver. He graduated in 2002 and passed the Swiss Bar exam in 2004; he is admitted to all Swiss courts. He holds a PhD from the University of Lucerne and an LLM in advocacy from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. Before opening Gabriel Arbitration in 2012, he was a member of the dispute resolution group of a leading international law firm.

National Leader

Switzerland - Arbitration 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Simon Gabriel is “one of the leaders in the field”, highlighted for his “strong advocacy skills”. Sources add: “He is deeply knowledgeable about arbitration.”

Biography

Dr Simon Gabriel specialises in international arbitration and has participated in more than 90 international arbitration proceedings. He is founder of the Zurich-based arbitration boutique law firm Gabriel Arbitration, and is thus entirely independent. He is also a lecturer in international arbitration at the University of Lucerne (master's degree, advocacy course and the Swiss Arbitration Academy).

Simon is regularly appointed as arbitrator in proceedings governed by ICC Rules, Swiss Rules, Vienna Rules and DIS Rules.

Furthermore, Simon and his team have represented parties in arbitration proceedings under ICC Rules, Swiss Rules, Vienna Rules, DIS Rules, SCC Rules, and ad hoc rules. In terms of amounts in dispute Simon’s experience ranges from US$700,000 to US$120 million.

Simon is particularly experienced in disputes concerning construction consortia, energy, international sales contracts, licensing contracts and post-M&A issues.

He is a member of the Swiss ICC Arbitration Commission and Swiss delegate in the ICC Arbitration Commission in Paris. Simon is also endorsed on the following panels of arbitrators: ICC Switzerland, Austrian VIAC, Russian Arbitration Association and Asian Institute of Alternative Dispute Resolution. He was also a member of the working group for the revision of the Vienna Rules in 2018.

Simon studied law at the Universities of Berne and British Columbia, Vancouver. He graduated in 2002 and passed the Swiss Bar exam in 2004; he is admitted to all Swiss courts. He holds a PhD from the University of Lucerne and an LLM in advocacy from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. Before opening Gabriel Arbitration in 2012, he was a member of the dispute resolution group of a leading international law firm.

Law Business Research
Law Business Research Ltd
Meridian House, 34-35 Farringdon Street
London EC4A 4HL, UK
© Law Business Research Ltd 1998-2020. All rights reserved.
Company No.: 03281866