Peers and clients say:
"Rouven is very sharp and to-the-point in his arbitration work"
"He is an excellent arbitrator and counsel"
"A true inspiration! He brings tremendous energy to his work and is a perfect choice for ensuring efficiency"
Rouven Bodenheimer is co-founder of BODENHEIMER HERZBERG, a law firm specialised in international dispute resolution. He has acted in many domestic and international arbitration cases, as both party-counsel and arbitrator. He also advises on conflict avoidance strategies and acts as mediator in complex commercial matters. Rouven has significant experience in institutional and ad-hoc arbitration, dispute adjudication and mediation. He is a fellow (FCIArb) and chartered arbitrator (C.Arb) of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.
What do you enjoy most about practising in the arbitration space?
One of the aspects I enjoy the most about arbitration is that it acts as a meeting point of different legal cultures - a place of convergence for diverse legal systems. It allows practitioners from different backgrounds to create new, mixed practices by combining different elements of, e.g., common law and civil law traditions. Crafting a unique solution that is specific to the facts and circumstances of each case along with my foreign colleagues is always a very rewarding and interesting experience.
You have a highly international practice. How are you seeing demand from different jurisdictions change?
The demand for arbitration has been growing steadily over the last few decades all over the world, especially among Asia-based companies and in Asia-related transactions. This correlates with the increasing number of cases with Asia-based arbitral institutions and the increasing number of cases which are administered by them. Further, the number of sophisticated colleagues from Asia has increased as well. Interestingly, whereas in the past the majority of Asian parties tended to be in the position of respondent, I see now more and more cases where continental European parties are put in the position of respondent.
What are the most common sources of construction disputes and how do you think clients can minimise the risks of them occurring?
Some of the most common sources of construction disputes are conflicts over quality (of the construction itself or the materials used), timeline delays and abandonment. This is in addition to the standard disputes over payments. While delays in timelines are an inevitable part of the construction sector, a sharper focus on removing ambiguity from the contract at the very beginning would be a good place to start. A properly drafted “scope of works”, along with a well-defined payment clause and a dispute resolution clause which caters to the complexity of the construction sector would go a long way in minimizing risks for clients.
A completely different approach I have been promoting for years is to shift from a controversial understanding of contractual relationships to a more partner-like oriented spirit among all stakeholders in a large construction project. Implementing respective structures and a joint understanding at the outset has proven to return significant cost savings and the greater satisfaction of all parties involved.
In your opinion, are clients increasingly becoming persuaded by the benefits of alternative dispute resolution?
While costs and delay may still be considered as an issue by our clients towards arbitration, they are more and more getting used to alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Especially in light of growing international transactions and the cross-border disputes arising thereof, ADR methods that are far more flexible than court litigation giving the parties more control over the process and the results, are deemed favourable. One of the benefits that our clients get from ADR is the opportunity to preserve a business relationship with negotiation or mediation. The option to keep all proceedings confidential gives the parties a chance to focus on the outcome of a dispute without any concern for public impact.
What inspired you to set up your own firm and what challenges did you face?
One of the things that inspired me to start a law firm was the idea to create a one-stop destination for complex disputes. Our international and specialised sources in the firm allow us to act not only as party’s counsel in litigation, arbitration, and mediation cases and other ADR proceedings, but also to serve as arbitrator, mediator or in other capacities, in all kinds of international disputes – without conflicts like in a larger firm. I would say that keeping up with technology is one of the bigger challenges that we face. It is constantly evolving, with many legal technology solutions being introduced every year. It takes time to test these solutions and identify which technology solutions work best for us.
What changes are you seeing in terms of competition in the market?
One of the recent changes in the market has been a healthy increase in standards of a work-life balance. Over the last few years, law firms had developed a notorious habit of engaging their younger associates in a ‘sweatshop’ sort of environment. At BODENHEIMER HERZBERG, we believe in ensuring that our younger associates have the time to not only give their best at work but to also enjoy the best of life outside work. The number of mothers in our team and the encouraging spirit to allow for individual concepts of work-life allocation reflects this spirit.
What are the key challenges younger construction lawyers may face in their practice and how can they overcome these?
One of the more challenging tasks for young lawyers is to harness technology and sustainability in their field of practice. With respect to construction, young lawyers will need to consider integrating technology and intellectual properties into construction projects while incorporating clean energy and green initiatives. I do not believe that there is any straight-jacket formula to tackle these challenges. What I can suggest is that young construction lawyers keep in mind that given the growing environment concerns, sustainability is key and that there are no shortcuts in that regard. Hence, a profound dedication to detail and to technical complexity is vital.
Last year you mentioned you would like to accept more teaching assignments to share your experiences with younger practitioners. Have you found this a valuable experience?
Interacting with younger practitioners is always an enriching and rewarding experience. They have a penchant for trying something new, which allows them to solve problems in a more creative way that can end up as a positive solution for a client.