Claus Von Wobeser is “a brilliant lawyer” who is hailed “the go-to guy in Mexico” for complex commercial litigation proceedings.
Claus von Wobeser is a founding partner of Von Wobeser y Sierra. He is a member of the firm’s executive committee and co-leads our dispute resolution practice. Claus has more than 40 years of experience, acting as counsel and arbitrator in 200-plus international disputes. He is renowned globally for his advocacy skills and strategic thinking in highly complex disputes, both litigation and arbitration. Claus has been a leading voice of pro bono work in Latin America.
In your opinion, what do clients look for when selecting a firm?
We know that the three most important things clients look are: a problem-solving approach, relevant expertise and track-record, and availability and responsiveness. The firm’s culture and values, including integrity and commitment to diversity and inclusion are high on the list and their importance grows steadily. This information comes from surveys and conversations with clients.
What makes Von Wobeser y Sierra stand out from its competitors in the market?
Our full-service, problem-solving, and hands-on approach make us stand out in the market. We have successfully blended and developed elite dispute resolution and corporate practices, organically. We are organised to provide multidisciplinary legal advice in an integrated and seamless fashion. We strive to understand our client, their business and environment like no other service provider. We are ready to go where others do not usually go, including site and market visits, and stakeholder engagement, for example. This extra mile gives our services an edge and allows us to bring value in every interaction. Moreover, we focus on building long-standing relationships, as we like to have ‘clients for life’.
What motivated you to found the firm and become its managing partner?
Our eagerness to do things differently motivated Maclovio Sierra and myself to establish Von Wobeser y Sierra, and Javier Lizardi joined us in this adventure that started in 1986. We knew that we could outperform the then-incumbent law firms by serving clients better, mainly through offering meaningful opportunities to talented lawyers and improving processes, including the use of technology (more PCs). This disruptor mentality proved to be successful, and we constantly remind ourselves that we stay relevant by doing things differently and raising the bar.
For many years, I was the managing partner of the firm. However, five years ago we made the decision to speed up the institutionalisation process and created an executive committee, entrusted with management duties. I am one of the three members, along with my partners Luis Burgueño and Fernando Carreño. The creation of the executive committee, as well as other committees with specific functions, has been tremendously beneficial to the steady and healthy growth of Von Wobeser y Sierra.
What qualities make for a successful managing partner?
A successful managing partner sets a vision, focuses on the right things, has a 360 degree view, and leads with values. Setting a vision of the future is an indispensable trait of leadership. Managing partners should develop the firm’s vision, refine it with input from colleagues, and point the direction to achieve it. They should spend their time on moving those levers that have the greatest impact. Also, they must develop an outside-in perspective to identify risks and seize opportunities, being business or talent related. Finally, a managing partner must live and breathe by the firm’s values and set the example to the rest of the organisation.
How has the firm adapted to address the ESG-related demands of clients?
We go where our clients go and advising clients with an ESG perspective is becoming a must. We were one of the first law firms in Mexico to launch an ESG practice group in mid-2021 with 20-plus lawyers. This group leverages our full-service capabilities, collaborative mindset and experience acquired by advising on these topics for years. We assist clients in legal issues related to environment and climate change; business and human rights; corporate governance and risk management; and sustainable finance. We approach these areas with four types of legal services: advisory, transactional, investigations and engagement with authorities, as well as litigation and arbitration.
What challenges did you face when setting up your own firm?
Keeping a balance is always a challenge and this is particularly true in new endeavours, such as setting up a law firm. For example, you must balance the time you spend on client files with the time you dedicate to attract and develop the best talent, which is critical for the firm’s continued success. Similarly, you must balance your time working on files with the time allocated to client development and administrative work. You should also separate time to observe the environment, reflect on the firm’s strategy and hone your skills.
As managing partner of Von Wobeser y Sierra, what are your main priorities for the firm’s development over the next few years?
Our mission is to solve our clients’ legal matters with the highest-quality services, through an expert and solution-oriented team. We implement this mission by attracting and developing the most talented and diverse team in Mexico, and by enhancing our management processes. These are our short- and medium-term priorities. If executed correctly, they should result in profitable and sustainable growth, as well as in meaningful opportunities for everyone in the firm.
What advice would you give to practitioners hoping to one day become a managing partner?
Managing a law firm is a great responsibility and not an easy one. My advice to practitioners hoping to become managing partners is to develop a solid understanding of the drivers of your business, learn more about business and time management, and strengthen your leadership and communication skills. Also, identify a couple of experienced individuals who can act as your mentors, as they will become a valuable resource. Once you get there, I wish you great success!