Claus von Wobeser is regarded as “an excellent attorney in every sense”, owing to his “extensive experience in commercial disputes”.
Claus von Wobeser is founding partner and head of the dispute resolution practice of Von Wobeser y Sierra. He has acted in more than 200 international arbitration proceedings, as either arbitrator or counsel, as per the rules of the ICC, PCA, ICDR, LCIA, HKIAC, SCC, UNCITRAL, NAFTA, ICSID and ICSID Additional Facility, among others. He frequently participates as an expert in arbitration proceedings, and as an expert on Mexican law before US and English courts. Additionally, his experience includes having acted as ad hoc judge of the Inter-American Human Rights Court and as conciliator in ICSID proceedings.
What do you enjoy most about working in arbitration?
I particularly enjoy having the opportunity to work both as arbitrator and counsel. As counsel I have been honored to build strong relationships with inspiring leaders across a variety of industries, and it is my privilege to protect their interests in Mexico and overseas. As an arbitrator, I am proud to uphold the rule of law assisting in developing standards that, if applied and upheld, they might help to make Latin America even more stable and welcoming to an investment environment. I am honoured to contribute to the development of international arbitration in the region.
What skills are required for arbitrating in different seats, and how does your experience on this front enhance your practice?
Usually, the seat of the arbitration does not affect the ability of an arbitrator. During my career, I have sat in many tribunals with different applicable laws to the arbitration and seats, and usually the parties provide all the legal elements necessary to consider to resolve the case. For instance, providing expert reports in law. However, I think experience in conducting arbitration proceedings is key to be able to arbitrate in different seats and also in some specific sectors such as energy, oil and gas, infrastructure, construction, etc. My experience acting as arbitrator has allowed me to act in cases in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, United States, Latin America and Europe.
What do you make of the planned proposals for a multilateral investment court?
I am a strong proponent of investor-state arbitration as the preferred mechanism for resolving investment disputes. The current system, in my opinion, works well and like any system could benefit from a few improvements. The multilateral investment court is a well-thought out project; however it will be faced with practical challenges and its execution will be difficult to achieve, given the wide-ranging positions countries and stakeholders need to agree on, as well as financing considerations of the whole court system.
Leading arbitral institutions, including the ICC and LCIA, have revised their rules, with other institutions to follow. What impact do you expect these changes will have on arbitration practice?
Arbitration rules have to keep up with the practice needs that are emerging. For example, the recent ICC rules expressly provide that hearings can be validly held virtually. Before, they were silent, so the doubt existed on whether the parties could annul an award based on the sole fact that the hearing was conducted virtually. Now, under the ICC rules such issue is resolved. Also, to promote arbitration efficiency, the new rules provide several amendments, such as allowing joinder of additional parties after the constitution of the tribunal. The LCIA arbitration rules also provide arbitrators with tools to expedite proceedings, such as early dismissal or limiting the length or content of any written statement. I expect that these new amendments will help the arbitration proceedings to be conducted in a more efficient manner. However, arbitrators should remember that there is also a duty to resolve the case properly, studying and analysing it carefully.
How is the generational shift changing legal practice at your firm? What do younger lawyers do differently?
Younger lawyers have an advantage working with technology and have adapted quickly to work in a home office format. A radical change with regards to technology is already happening and has certainly been accelerated with the coronavirus pandemic. I believe younger lawyers could continue helping the firm to adapt even more. However, in my law firm, this crisis has led us to already implement different forms of remote working with mostly positive results.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in arbitration?
Get involved within the arbitration community, for example, become member in different arbitration associations and actively participate in them. This will help to forge valuable relationships with a broader range of leadings arbitration practitioners across the globe. Such connections could lead to future appointments both as counsel or arbitrator. Also, I would say that a sector-specific knowledge could help understand in a deep level the disputes related to such sectors. Additionally, I will say that you never stop learning as an arbitration practitioner. It is essential to keep abreast of developments in the field. Finally, I highly recommend developing an understanding of basic business and financial notions to properly comprehend, for example, expert reports on damages or the business-like nature of a contract.