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After downsizing Germany Orrick bucks trend with Geneva launch as US firm bolsters arbitration credentials

Having recently shut two out of four of its German offices as it refocuses its European strategy, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe is opening a new base in Geneva to build its arbitration presence on the continent with the hire of Vanessa Liborio from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Disputes partner Vanessa Liborio Garrido de Sousa will head the new office that will focus solely on arbitration. She will work closely with the firm’s wider arbitration team in France and German including partners Jean-Pierre Martel, Charles Kaplan, Laurent Jaeger, Laurie Craig in Paris and co-practice group leader Siegfried Elsing in Dusseldorf.

The new office is in line with the firm’s strategy to focus on three sectors – technology, energy and infrastructure, and finance – with a focus on its dispute and transactional practices.

‘Many firms are thinking about pulling back in Geneva but for us it’s a logical market to be in based on Vanessa’s skillset and the focus of her clients,’ said Orrick chairman Mitchell Zuklie. ‘We already have a strong litigation practice in the US, and arbitration is strong in Paris and Dusseldorf and a presence in Geneva is crucial for further growth in Europe.’

Although Geneva is traditionally seen as the Swiss centre for private client work, it has enjoyed a long-held tradition for having an arbitration-friendly judicial system along with Paris, New York and London. Orrick said that Geneva was particularly attractive because of its ‘political neutrality and arbitration friendliness’.

Liborio added: ‘I was drawn by Orrick’s global commitment to dispute resolution. The firm’s focus on energy and infrastructure, and finance, its role in some of the most important cross-border matters in France and across Europe and the integrated nature of its practice all make it a very attractive platform for international arbitration.’

Liborio leaves Akin Gump after five years before which she was a senior associate at legacy firm Hogan & Hartson from 2005 to 2010. She has acted as counsel in proceedings before the International Chamber of Commerce, the London Court of International Arbitration, and the Swiss Chambers of Commerce. She has experience of advising on disputes involving infrastructure, joint venture agreements, sales of goods, collateral management agreements, insurance, aviation and consultancy agreements.

The office launch comes after the San Francisco-bred law firm cut its German network by half, leaving its offering in Europe’s largest economy with two remaining branches in Düsseldorf and Munich. The firm’s largest office outside of the States is in Paris with around 90 fee-earners followed by London which houses 70.