Urs Hoffmann-Nowotny excels on the international stage and is highly sought after for his adept handling of large-scale commercial disputes.
Urs Hoffmann-Nowotny is a partner in Schellenberg Wittmer’s dispute resolution group in Zurich. His main areas of practice are domestic and international commercial litigation as well as pre-litigation strategic advice. He has special expertise in banking litigation, having acted as counsel to financial services providers in numerous disputes with private and institutional clients, in corporate law disputes, civil cartel damages actions and bankruptcy-related litigations as well as the enforcement of foreign judgments and arbitral awards, asset recovery and international legal assistance.
How have you developed your litigation practice since you began your career?
Prior to joining Schellenberg Wittmer as an associate in 2010, and becoming a partner in 2017, I studied law at the University of Zurich (Switzerland), I graduated in 2003 and received a doctorate in 2010. During this time, I also worked as a research and teaching assistant at chairs for corporate and commercial law as well as civil procedure. I additionally worked as a law clerk at a first instance court before being admitted to the bar in Switzerland in 2006. I gained international experience during a traineeship with the High Court in London and a secondment with a large international law firm in the United States.
What inspired you to pursue a legal career and specialise in domestic and international commercial litigation?
At all stages of my career, I have had a strong focus on dispute resolution. Initially, my motivation was triggered by a certain flair for technical issues of civil procedure. This has developed more and more into a fascination with the strategic challenges of litigation and litigation planning, in particular, in multi-jurisdictional cases. Furthermore, I have always had a good understanding of commercial issues and financial products. This proved very helpful when post-financial crisis litigation ensued in my very early days with Schellenberg Wittmer.
What are the key qualities that clients look for in an effective litigator?
The ability to guide clients through what may be unknown territory to them. One must recognise the challenges associated with a case, which are often not apparent at first glance, as soon as possible. One can then give clients reassurance, but also make them aware of the risks. Communication is key, with a good litigator demonstrating clarity on understanding of the dispute and the best way forward. This involves also listening and asking the right questions. In the course of a litigation, besides being persuasive in court, one should always keep an eye open to identify potential opportunities for settlement.
How does your firm distinguish itself from the competition?
Schellenberg Wittmer has one of the largest disputes practices in the country. Through the size and combined expertise of its members across both Geneva and Zurich, we consider the team’s breadth to be unmatched. Our firm is known to be particularly strong in high-end litigation in large commercial, banking and corporate law matters, very often in a cross-border context. We maintain a distinguished record in both domestic and international litigation, with expertise across a diverse client list, also including private individuals.
We are particularly experienced in proceedings and investigations on behalf of banks and financial institutions. Several major banks use our firm as primary adviser, which means we are involved in most major disputes within this sector.
Looking back over your career, what is the most memorable case you have been a part of?
There have been so many memorable cases. But one worth mentioning is the successful defence of a major Swiss bank against a multimillion-franc claim brought by an institutional client in relation to investments that had failed to meet expectations during the financial crisis of 2007–2008. This was one of the Swiss flagship cases following the financial crisis and was heavily covered by the media. The case went up to the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, which rejected the claim against the bank in 2015.
What advice would you give to lawyers looking to establish a career in commercial litigation?
Be curious and look out for challenges. And be precise and thorough in your work. Regarding career paths, there are many ways of skinning a cat. I would try to gain experience in different positions in the field as well as abroad. At the same time, always do what you feel like doing because only a passionate litigator is a good litigator.