Part II: Arbitration Team of the Year Awards 2021

To close 2021 on a high note, Jus Mundi is proud to be announcing the winners of the Arbitration Teams of the Year (ATOY). This year, we are presenting this award to law firms in the following categories: Female Empowerment Award, Commercial Arbitration Activity Award, and Transparency Award.

For 2021, we are featuring Baker & McKenzie as one of the recipients of ATOY, appreciation for 67 commercial arbitration cases on Jus Mundi. We recognize the firm’s caseload in commercial arbitration as well as the diverse economic sectors in which these cases have taken place.

Baker & McKenzie has been involved in at least 117 international case(s) known by Jus Mundi (67 Commercial Arbitrations, 39 Investor-States, 6 Sports Arbitrations, 5 Iran-US Claims) in a variety of economic sectors, including Financial and insurance activities; Manufacturing; Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply; Construction; Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles; Administrative and support service activities; Mining and quarrying; Transportation and storage; Professional, scientific and technical activities; Real estate activities; Information and communication; Agriculture, forestry and fishing.

Interview with Claudia Benavides Galvis

  • Baker & McKenzie has had a significant caseload over the years. With a network of 76 offices in 46 locations and 65% cross-border deals, what is the secret for the firm to continue branching out globally and maintain one of the prime choices for clients?

We understand that in a rapidly changing legal market, clients have new expectations, constantly evolving choices and operate in an environment of heightened reputational and commercial risk. Our strength is our ability to adopt a client mindset and understand that legal services are a key part of solving their complex business issues. We lead and embrace change as a Firm in today’s demand-driven market, collaborating across borders, using transformative technology and dealing with people with empathy.

We leverage the breadth of our global reach and the diversity of our practices, sector specialists and people to bring the whole firm to our clients – we are where our clients need us to be. Our broad, multi-disciplinary, cross-cultural client teams ensure we have the best global and local talent on each project. Our business model harnesses emerging technologies to optimize the delivery of legal advice to efficiently solve our clients’ most complex problems.

These strengths particularly come to the fore with our international arbitration practice. Our own data shows that almost two-thirds of clients prefer arbitration to litigation for international disputes. Our arbitration practice is the largest and busiest in the world, combining local expertise with global knowledge. We draw on our network to deliver outstanding results to our clients.

  • Climate change is a global phenomenon that impacts international law and finance. Can you tell us more about the firm’s participation and involvement at COP events? What influence do you reckon the COP26 will have on international arbitration?

Enhancing climate change ambition was an overarching theme of COP26 and a priority of the UK Presidency. Investors, consumers and other stakeholders expect greater action and disclosure on climate risks and opportunities. As a result, Governments and private sector entities around the world are increasingly setting ambitious climate commitments. To achieve these goals, there is an urgent need to scale finance, technology and markets and couple it with strong leadership and governance.

With a long-standing history of participation and involvement at COP events, Baker McKenzie is at the cutting edge of climate change law and climate finance developments. We are currently engaged on multiple levels advising governments, companies and other entities on the implementation of the Paris Agreement, emerging compliance and disclosure regimes and innovative approaches to carbon markets and climate finance. We have advised the governments of Morocco and Fiji on their COP Presidencies, and as part of COP26 were actively involved in Presidency initiatives to build a private sector finance system for net zero and to scale carbon markets including the Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets.

COP26 and the wider climate change agenda will have significant effects on international arbitration. The adoption of virtual hearings and electronic bundles has been boosted by the Covid pandemic, and they deliver real environmental benefits. They can also lead to significant cost savings for our clients, delivering benefits all round. Arbitration will also have an increasing role to play in climate change disputes. These are truly global disputes, which arbitration is well-suited to resolve.

There are over 1,800 ongoing or concluded climate change cases around the world, a figure which has doubled since 2015. Government entities make up the majority of defendants, but corporations are also targeted. We expect to see continuing debate around attribution, such as the causal relationship between emissions and specific extreme weather events. There is also an increasing focus on the impact climate change will have on the enjoyment of human rights, including specifically on the rights of future generations.

We anticipate growing numbers of cases this year, driven by increasing corporate disclosures and voluntary commitments around net zero, combined with activist pressure on greenwashing and other corporate behaviors.

The COP Hub can be found here – COP26 Hub: STEPS to Net Zero | Insight | Baker McKenzie

  • What is your vision for 2022 in the arbitration field? Any trends that we can expect?

State intervention in COVID times

The COVID-19 crisis has driven governments around the world to intervene or even nationalize activities generally regarded as private. At least 80 countries introduced export bans or restrictions focusing on drugs, medical devices and equipment; compulsory licenses have been issued for patented drugs and devices; private hospitals have been temporarily nationalized. Claims against governments under investment treaties are sure to follow, testing the boundaries of international law defenses.

A New Arbitration Frontier

Lately, it seems like almost every major commercial city is setting up an arbitral center. Singapore, Dubai, Bogota — these may be the international arbitration seats of the future. With arbitration practitioners around the globe, our team has the inside track on the opportunities and pitfalls of these emerging seats.

Diversity rising in arbitration

In recent years, diversity initiatives have grown throughout the international arbitration community, spurred by a perception that the industry is too homogenous in its race, gender, age and experience. Many now agree that involving arbitrators and counsel with different ideas, approaches and techniques helps bring better resolutions —but the path to achieve diversity is far from clear.

Presentation of the firm

Integrated global team; deep immersion in local jurisdictions

Baker & McKenzie’s international arbitration practice is the largest and busiest in the world; they have more merits hearings per year than any other law firm, and they have acted in twice as many hearings as any other firm — in every major centre in the world. The firm does not have a team based primarily around a single arbitral centre (although they do have significant presence in all the arbitral centres, and a particularly large six-partner team in London). No other firm can match their reach, depth or breadth across all markets and offer the global client service they can. The firm have unparalleled knowledge of international business, markets and arbitrators. Baker & McKenzie is the ultimate global IA team.

The cross-border nature of international arbitration plays to these strengths; almost all of their cases involve cross-office collaboration, and Baker McKenzie was recently named by Acritas as the world’s strongest law firm brand for the 11th consecutive year, ranking top for multi-jurisdictional litigation.

Their lawyers have thorough knowledge of the rules, procedures and cultural dynamics of the world’s leading arbitration institutions, such as the ICC, LCIA, ICDR, ICSID, SCC, SIAC, HKIAC, CPR and JAMS, and are actively involved in all the major arbitral associations. Within the team, 30 individuals sit as arbitrators across the globe.

The calibre of the clients demonstrates their renown and underscores their ability to provide strategic, business-driven counsel to the world’s most significant companies.

Able to advise on local law in all jurisdictions in which the firm operates, they are organized globally to provide advocacy for a connected world. The team includes local lawyers in more than 50 jurisdictions who speak 100+ languages. Unlike many of the competitors, Baker & McKenzie is not a team based around one or two major centres. Nor are they a loosely associated group of talented local practitioners operating independently. To the contrary, they are highly aligned and connected through frequent meetings, trainings, publications, client initiatives and cases, as well as their core values of Excellence, Collaboration, Inclusion, Innovation and Service.

Key clients

  • Air Liquide, AnsaldoBreda, Bombardier, Czech bank CSOB, Dow Chemical, FedEx, GlaxoSmithKline, Hyundai, Lukoil, KPMG, Marriott, Rio Tinto, Samsung, Shell, Siemens, Toshiba, Verizon, VTB Bank, Walmart and 3M have all used the firm. Other clients include the British Olympic Association, FC Barcelona and Texan drilling contractor Weatherford.
  • The firm has also defended governments including Canada, Armenia, Papua New Guinea, Hungary, Kuwait, Mongolia, Turkey and Uzbekistan, as well as state-owned entities such as Mexico’s Pemex, Brazil’s Petrobras, Kazakhstan’s KazTransGaz and Kyrgyzstan’s national mining company Kyrgyzaltyn.

Track-record highlights

  • Complex cross-border disputes: Their work often involves three or more jurisdictions (and team members from each) with various aspects and governing laws.
  • Global coverage, local strength: Not only do they have practitioners in the main financial and arbitration centres, but they also have leading IA lawyers in key emerging markets throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia, Russia and Germany. Few of their competitors can match this reach.
  • Investor-state and treaty: Their internal Investor-State team includes many of their most experienced arbitration practitioners. Examples include their work for the State of Kuwait, and the claims they are pursuing against Georgia and Belarus. They are also thought leaders through their ground breaking research and client facing analysis. Two examples include their project with the Investment Treaty Forum of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law as well as Preserve, Protect and Defend: Global Nationalization Risk report.
  • Construction and infrastructure projects: Examples include the investment treaty claims above and their work for Fluor Limited, Daewoo Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd., and Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., Ltd.
  • Post-M&A: Examples include their work for Oryxa Capital L.P, Eniro Holding AS and SONY EUROPE.

Congratulations to the team again, and Jus Mundi wishes them good luck for the future!