Bär & Karrer continues to grow and recently reinforced its international arbitration practice, adding Pierre-Yves Gunter and his team, one of the biggest moves of the year in Swiss legal circles. Here Pierre-Yves, and fellow partner Thomas Reutter discuss the Swiss market.
Leaders League. Pierre-Yves, you recently joined the international arbitration team in Geneva. What is the firm’s strategy with regards to international arbitration?
Pierre-Yves Gunter. Indeed, I joined Bär & Karrer earlier in 2017, along with Alexandra Johnson and the rest of the team.
A senior associate joined us from Paris, Mercedeh Azeredo da Silveira, a sanctions specialist and investment treaty arbitration specialist. With the new arrivals, we now cover all aspects of international arbitration: commercial, investment, sports – the specialty of Michele Bernasconi –, oil & gas etc.
I am co-heading the arbitration group together with Daniel Hochstrasser, who is based in Zurich. The key idea is to have the same ability in all Swiss linguistic regions. Geneva is an important international business centre and a strong market presence makes sense. This is borne out in the recent arrival of various US and other international law firms in the city, demonstrating Geneva remains an attractive location for international arbitration.
That's why international arbitration needed to be developed in the office. We now have the most capable dispute resolution team in Geneva. Even if Zurich remains the most important office, we believe Geneva should reach a critical mass – we have now achieved this in litigation and now want to reinforce business law (tax, banking and M&A).
“Even though Zurich will remain the most important office, we believe Geneva should reach a critical mass”
Thomas, you are based in Zurich, give us an example of how both teams cooperate.
Thomas Reutter. The topics are related; it is not difficult to work together. There is no difference in handling matters from Zurich or Geneva. There is an internal education across offices and all lawyers know each other.
P.-Y.G. I noticed, when I joined, the considerable cooperation there is between the two offices. In each practice group, there are regular calls and contributions towards the work.
T.R. It is true each city has its own specialisms though. While Zurich focuses more on transactional work, M&A and capital market transactions, Geneva has a gravity of work towards white collar crime, investigations and arbitration. These distinctive emphases have grown historically. Of course in Bär & Karrer’s case, as Pierre-Yves mentioned, with both offices being full service, they can serve clients with pretty much any case in each of them.
What defines the Bär & Karrer mindset?
T.R. Not only do we aim at being a “national champion” and to give the best advice possible to our clients, but we also need to make our clients happy! In other words technical skills are a sine qua non condition but emotional intelligence is also crucial.
P.-Y.G. Agreed! I would add – and the same applies for every field – a good understanding of cross cultural issues. We need to understand the client, and what he or she needs. The team spirit is also decisive.
In a competitive environment, with fast-changing technology, what is Bär & Karrer doing to innovate?
T.R. We put in place everything we can in order to anticipate the evolution and the issues that go with it. Salvatore Iacangelo, our COO and Chief Digital Officer, helps us cover all initiatives in legal tech. Our aim is not to neglect this field, where we also want to be a leader. There are various initiatives in which we have an interest. The automated documentation that helps incorporating companies completely is of great help. Crypto currencies, which are made in Switzerland, are also an important subject for the future, together with other initiatives in fintech. The Zug office does a lot of corporate automation of documents, and is already exploring other areas needing tech initiatives. On the client’s side, we aim at being one of the few large firms that have this expertise.
Security and confidentiality have a special place in these developments, don’t they?
T.R. Indeed. We need to become familiar with these new tools, but also need to make sure they still preserve confidentiality. We completed an audit on IT security in order to make sure ours complied with the ISO/CEI 27001 standard.