Bär & Karrer Ltd
Quai de la Poste 12
Saverio Lembo is greatly appreciated among peers for his excellent commercial litigation practice. He is particularly renowned for his incisive approach to white-collar crime matters.
Saverio Lembo heads Bär & Karrer’s white-collar crime practice group. He has extensive experience in business crime defence, asset recovery, commercial and financial litigation, international judicial assistance and arbitration. Saverio Lembo regularly assists clients in a number of complex commercial and criminal proceedings, in international commercial and sport (CAS) arbitrations. He is frequently involved in multi-jurisdictional matters requiring methodical coordination of strategies.
What motivated you to pursue a career in commercial litigation?
I graduated at University of Geneva both in economics and law. I was naturally expecting to be a M&A lawyer. After my bar exam, I was seconded to a magic circle firm in London, where I successively worked in the M&A department and the commercial litigation department. It is precisely during that secondment that I realised that I was much more attracted by confronting ideas, defending clients in court and convincing magistrates than drafting share purchase agreements and doing due diligence. When I came back to Switzerland, I was determined to become a litigator.
What qualities make for a successful litigator?
A successful litigator must obviously have the required legal skills for the matter he/she is dealing with. But this is not enough by far. He/she must also understand the clients’ needs, their appetite for litigation and their objectives. Empathy is of paramount importance. A successful litigator must then be able to draft and plead his/her case in an intelligible way. It seems an obvious thing to say but I saw several times judges yawning at boring oral pleadings. Finally, a successful litigator must also be able to improvise, for instance in front of an unexpected witness statement or by responding to a legal argument suddenly raised by his/her opponent.
What is it about commercial litigation that you enjoy most?
I personally like the first meeting with the client and the setting up of the strategy of defence/attack. Commercial litigation gives lawyers the possibility to be extremely creative. In cross-border litigation especially, there is a variety of tools at the disposal of the parties in order to make sure your clients litigate their case in the right jurisdiction. For instance, if you are a defendant, you might prefer to litigate in a civil law jurisdiction, where discovery and cross examination are not as developed as in common law jurisdictions.
What are the main reasons commercial clients choose Bär & Karrer as their litigation representatives?
I would say because of the degree of specialisation of our lawyers and their capacity to act in complex matters. Another advantage of our firm is that we have offices in all speaking regions of Switzerland, which enable us to defend a case in German, French or Italian and to intervene promptly with interim measures, if needed, in any place in Switzerland. This is a significant advantage in asset tracing matters, where you often need to simultaneously coordinate freezing of assets.
Your clients span from multinational corporations to private clients. What similarities and differences should be considered when representing and advising these two client bases?
The similarities are definitely the quality and responsiveness of the advice provided. The difference is that corporations have generally more financial means than individuals. There are however exceptions, for example when you are representing high-net-worth individuals. Also, corporations’ representatives (inhouse lawyers) are often legally more sophisticated than individuals. Individuals need more tailor-made advice, as they are in general more emotionally involved in the litigation and therefore need to be reassured.
How does your membership in a wide range of committees and associations affect your practice as a commercial litigator?
The membership in associations helps a lawyer to build his/her network. But it is by far not sufficient. The most efficient way for a lawyer to expand his/her practice is definitely the quality of the service provided and the results achieved. Clients have become more sophisticated and do more and more due diligence before appointing a lawyer. They eventually come to you because you are a good professional, not because you speak on panels.
As the head of Bär & Karrer’s white-collar crime practice group, what are your main priorities for its development over the next few years?
Continuing to serve my clients with the same dedication and passion.
Looking back over your career, what has been your proudest achievement?
I have had some important satisfactions in the defence of my clients but my proudest achievement is the development of our dispute resolution team in Geneva. This is actually not my personal achievement, but the result of the joint efforts made by all the lawyers who have been working with me since we have opened the office in 2000.