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‘I have to refuse maybe four out of five cases’: Dechert arbitrator exits to establish boutique

Dechert partner Pierre Mayer is set to depart the firm to establish his own boutique in Paris due to reasons of client conflict, a move which will see the disputes lawyer share office premises with former Jones Day arbitration counsel Sigvard Jarvin who broke away from his firm last year to set up his own offering.

Before joining Dechert as a partner in 2006, Mayer was counsel at Coudert Brothers in Paris for nearly 20 years and then at Clifford Chance. Mayer will launch his boutique on 1 April with one associate and re-locate to 20 Rue des Pyramides where he will share the premises with former Jones Day counsel Jarvin, who established his own arbitration practice in January 2014. The disputes specialists will also share the space with arbitration lawyer Jacques Pellerin who currently serves as vice chair of the French Arbitration Committee and as a lawyer at the Court of Appeal of Paris.

On his decision to leave Dechert due to client conflict Mayer told Legal Business: ‘I realise now as a partner at Dechert that the conflict of being appointed as an arbitrator is systematic. I have to refuse maybe four out of five cases. That’s a recent development for the firm because it has been growing and the policy has changed. They are not only actual conflicts, meaning one of the parties to arbitration would be a client of a partner, but also commercial conflict which means they hope to get one of the parties as a client. In all big US or English law firms it’s the same, but it’s gotten worse at Dechert.’

Set to bring over his entire client portfolio, including three ongoing ICSID arbitrations, Mayer will still continue to work with Dechert’s arbitration department on a non-exclusive basis where he may act as counsel. Major highlights during his career have included acting as counsel to an Asian state entity on a $2bn dispute arising out of a military procurement contract and the payment of illicit commissions and as an arbitrator in an UNCITRAL case between two major pharmaceutical companies regarding the joint development of a drug.

Breakaway arbitration boutiques are increasingly common with several established last year while a big impact was made in the market when Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s London arbitration group head Constantine Partasides alongside Paris-based partner Georgias Petrochilos, and former co-arbitration chair Jan Paulsson established Three Crowns in April 2013.