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LACCA Approved: Claus von Wobeser

Arbitration Firm: Von Wobeser y Sierra SC (Mexico City) Mexico

Claus von Wobeser

Partner

cvonwobeser@vwys.com.mx
Tel: 01 55 5258 1000

Claus von Wobeser is managing partner and head of the dispute resolution practice of Von Wobeser y Sierra SC. Throughout his extensive career, spanning more than 30 years, Mr von Wobeser has acted in over 200 arbitrations as counsel, arbitrator and expert. He has also acted as vice president of the International Court of Arbitration of the ICC and member of the ICISD Arbitrator’s Panel and is currently member of the London Court of Arbitration. Mr von Wobeser has received global recognition for his work in arbitration as counsel and arbitrator. In 2017, Chambers Latin America awarded him the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Thought Leaders 2018 - Interview with Claus von Wobeser

Why did you decide to specialise in arbitration?

During my doctoral studies in Paris, I participated in a conference on the US-Iran Claims Tribunal, where I met a representative of the ICC Court of Arbitration who introduced me to the secretary general of the ICC Court. I ended up becoming the first Latin American member of the ICC Court and that is how I became engaged with arbitration. When I returned to Mexico, I practised for several years in corporate law and M&A, while at the same time promoting arbitration in Latin America by participating in conferences and writing articles. Arbitration was not at all popular in the region at the time and there had only been two cases at the ICC involving Latin American parties. Little by little, it began to gain momentum and I started receiving nominations as arbitrator.

You have achieved so much in your career, but what would you say has been your biggest achievement to date?

I regard my greatest achievement as having founded and developed one of the principal firms in Mexico and an important player in arbitration in Latin America. Seeing the firm grow, not only in size, but also in the quality and scope of our services, has been extremely rewarding.

What has been the most exciting arbitral dispute you have worked on during your career?

I would say that the most exciting case I have worked on would have to be the COMMISA v Pemex case, which became famous for the enforcement of the award in New York, which had been annulled at the seat of the arbitration in Mexico. I participated in the case in different capacities from the beginning, first during the arbitration in Mexico, then in the annulment proceedings in Mexico, and finally in the enforcement proceedings in New York.

How has your experience in corporate and M&A law helped you in your role as an arbitrator?

I started as a corporate and M&A lawyer, which later developed into serving as arbitrator and as counsel in arbitration proceedings. My experience in corporate law has been fundamental to the success of my arbitration practice, because it has allowed me to have an in-depth understanding of how corporations and corporate finance works.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing arbitration practitioners at the moment?

Arbitration, especially investment arbitration, is facing a backlash due to perceived systemic shortcomings that have not been attended by the arbitration community in a satisfactory manner. As arbitration practitioners, we should engage with those who are sceptical of arbitration to devise feasible solutions to address the valid criticisms that have been formulated against arbitration.

In your opinion as a managing partner, what sets your firm apart from competitors in the market?

This year, Latin Lawyer 250 said that Von Wobeser y Sierra has a “top-notch blend of disputes and corporate” and I think that is indeed one our greatest strengths. We have a very strong arbitration practice that is complemented by a very strong corporate law practice, and the two work together very well.

What skills make a successful arbitration lawyer?

In addition to dominating arbitration law, a good arbitration lawyer should dominate the underlying substantive law. Core subjects such as contracts and obligations are key, but to be successful, an arbitration lawyer should have a profound knowledge of at least a few specific fields, such as construction law, energy law or corporate law. Financial knowledge to understand damages reports is also important.

In addition, I think it is fundamental to have an open and curious mind, and a desire to constantly learn something new. Often the disputes involve highly technical, non-legal issues, which cannot be pleaded and resolved well unless counsel and the arbitrators have a genuine interest in studying- those issues in detail.

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