Throughout its almost 50 years of history, Bär & Karrer has never compromised on quality to achieve growth but built up its practice organically. Today it is a full service firm present in all language areas of Switzerland with an outstanding track record and one of the strongest players in the country.
In 1969 two brothers, Robert and Martin Karrer, joined forces with Thomas Bär to create a private practice. Little did they know that their firm, based in Zurich, would1969 two brothers, Robert and become a fast-paced legal powerhouse and a serial winner of the title «Switzerland Law Firm of the Year» at international awards and well known by law firms all over the globe.
FROM A PRIVATE CLIENT BOUTIQUE TO A BLOOMING FULL-SERVICE FIRM
At the beginning, Bär & Karrer’s focus was on private clients. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the firm’s M&A practice grew significantly and became the “engine room of the firm.” Now approaching its 50th anniversary, Bär & Karrer is a full-service firm with a sector focus on banking & insurance, life sciences, energy, logistics, media, technology and real estate.
The firm is also particularly reputed in the sports and entertainment areas. This team is led by Michele Bernasconi, who frequently acts as an arbitrator at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. For the latter he was selected as an arbitrator for the London 2012 Olympic Games ad hoc division.
Throughout the firm’s progression, the steady rate of high-caliber cases remains a common denominator. For example, Bär & Karrer acted as Swiss counsel to Lafarge in its €40 billion combination with Holcim, for ACE in its acquisition of Chubb for €28.3 billion in 2015 and for Syngenta in its successful defense against Monsanto and the subsequent all cash offer by ChemChina of $43 billion. In 2016, it made media headlines by advising Ge-Neuro on its first Swiss IPO on Euronext in Paris.
AN ACCLAIMED FIRM BEYOND SWITZERLAND
Domestic firms dominate Switzerland’s legal market. Some of the larger firms have offices in all of the country’s major cities (Zurich, Geneva, Berne, Lausanne and Basel) other firms operate from one or two cities only. Bär & Karrer’s implementation strategy focused on the country’s linguistic diversity. By setting up offices in Lugano, Zug and Geneva, Bär & Karrer increased its client base in the Italian, German and French speaking regions respectively. Being present locally has proved to be an advantage, particularly in complex transactions with a national dimension and matters that require action in various cantons. As an example, Bär & Karrer has been advising Swiss grid on acquiring the entire high voltage transmission grid in Switzerland, a transaction where local presence was particularly important.
Having offices in the Italian and French speaking regions of Switzerland positively affects the flow of cross-border matters and transactions with Italy and France.
The firm’s unique track record, its ability to provide thought leadership and its experience in seamlessly working together with international law firms on cross-border matters make it a trusted advisor for global corporations with headquarters in Switzerland, like Credit Suisse, Novartis, Swiss Life, UBS or Swiss Re.
CONTINUOUS INNOVATION AND IMPROVEMENT AS A CORE ELEMENT OF STRATEGY
Bär & Karrer is a pioneer in many regards. In 2008, the firm was the first in Switzerland to hire an experienced lawyer exclusively for knowledge management and development. Each of the firm’s practice areas is reflected in a know-how database which is in the responsibility of a key partners active in their respective fields. Senior Partner Daniel Hochstrasser, for example, head of the firm’s arbitration practice and a member of the ICC Court of Arbitration in Paris, is in charge of files pertaining to his arbitration practice. As a result of involving the top practitioners in knowledge sharing and developing, the firm’s efforts in knowledge management have borne fruit. Bär & Karrer invests more than any other Swiss firm in the development of its lawyers: Since 2010, in a partnership with the renowned University of St. Gallen, the firm has run the Bär & Karrer College (BKC) to train associates not only in technical legal areas but also with respect to business and soft skills. Credits earned at the BKC count towards an Executive MBA.
Currently, Bär & Karrer pushes document automation, the switch to a completely paperless office, equipping all lawyers with an iPad Pro, and CRM, having rolled out industry-leading soft-ware. The firm is on the shortlists in the categories “Most innovative non UK-headquartered firm,” “Best firm wide use of IT” and “Innovation in CRM” for The Lawyers Business Leadership Awards 2016. No other Swiss firm is shortlisted in any category.
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