1010, Vienna, Austria
Bettina Knoetzl is celebrated by peers and clients for being “to the point, always reasonable and always very well organised”.
Bettina Knoetzl is a passionate trial lawyer with over 25 years of experience in handling critical disputes. She has tried, won or settled hundreds of mission-critical, high-stake cases. Bettina heads the litigation team at KNOETZL, a leading Austrian law firm providing the highest quality of advocacy in dispute resolution. In 2017, she was the first European to be recognised world-wide as “Lawyer of the Year” in Asset Recovery. She is the vice president of the Vienna Bar and president of Transparency International – Austrian Chapter.
What inspired you pursue a legal career?
The pursuit of justice and my inner drive to counteract injustice where I have the ability to make a change. A trial lawyer can make a difference by presenting the matter to the court in a way that a reasonable settlement or a fair judgment becomes the ultimate outcome. We help to seek fair solutions and we make our clients very happy with our results. This is a gratifying task, that is never dull, not even after 25 years of all-out, passionate, practice.
What are the main challenges of having such a global practice?
For young lawyers it is important to gain the right experience to develop a solid understanding of the disparity and nuances between legal systems and cultural underpinnings. Both significantly affect the way we gain an advantage. How do you prepare a foreign client for a trial in Austria, if you do not understand what his expectations and beliefs are, and from which system he comes? Experience teaches us that it takes many years of practice to be able to command these differences in a way that foreign clients are also best prepared in an Austrian court setting.
My tip for international litigation lawyers is: practice, practice, practice.
What qualities make for an effective litigator in today’s market?
Aside from mastering your case inside out and knowing all aspects of the applicable law, a litigator should apply strategic forethinking, be creative, eloquent and – in high-stake cases – possess diverse team-leader skills. He needs to be able to present complex issues in a simple way and should have well-honed negotiation skills, creating an atmosphere of trust with the ability to guide the client through troubled waters like an icebreaker.
How do you anticipate the commercial litigation market to develop in Austria over the next year?
As any crisis produces its significant crisis-related disputes; so does the covid-19 crisis. We handle several disputes springing from the covid-19 crisis, ranging from fraud matters with forged mask purchases to post-M&A or supply-chain disputes on behalf of clients in the healthcare industry. On top of contractual disputes, we have filed a number of tort claims including criminal complaints, as we have addressed big-ticket fraudulent behaviour, through which millions are diverted from taxpayers to certain individuals.
What technologies are having the greatest impact on litigation proceedings?
Let me choose three different aspects to answer this very broad question:
Currently, short messages have a strong impact on litigation. Clients tend to forget that they can be easily retrieved and presented in court, sometimes creating very bad surprises for the other side.
Our forensic team is glad to have AI-related technologies at our disposal, easing the search for the “smoking gun” and helping to identify and structure available evidence.
When preparing a trial, there are helpful techniques available, such as 3D-animation, to convey a specific message, for example to explain a certain technical aspect. Many words would not be able to explain that which one short video can.
How does KNOETZL distinguish itself from the competition in the market?
Our firm is known as powerhouse for litigation and dispute resolution. Thanks to our notably strong white-collar crime practice, we are able to utilise both civil and criminal law to the benefit of our clients. This makes us faster and much more effective. When we “follow the money”, as we have to in our asset recovery matters, this is a huge benefit. Moreover, we have built and nurtured very strong networks across the globe. If, for example, an injunction is needed in several jurisdictions, we can make this happen almost overnight.
What advice would you give to lawyers looking to establish a career in commercial litigation?
Try to gain cross-border work experience and, as above: practice, practice, practice.
Where, in your opinion, does the future of commercial litigation lie?
I am not worried about litigation lawyers going out of business. As long as a society is functioning peacefully, it will rely on litigation as a tool to bring justice and peace. It is as vital to a healthy society as medical doctors are for a healthy mind and body.