Dechert’s Paris international arbitration team to spin out as local boutique

Departure of 13-strong team is being put down to a strategy shift by Dechert


Dechert's Paris-based international arbitration team is leaving the firm, with the bulk of the contingent destined for a new boutique being set up by two of its senior partners.

Departing partners Eduardo Silva Romero and José Manuel García Represa are establishing Wordstone Dispute Resolution, which will maintain a referral relationship with Dechert's offices in Paris and internationally but hopes to thrive as an independent outfit with fewer conflicts. Dechert, meanwhile, has put the split down to a strategy shift.

National partner Catalina Echeverri Gallego is also moving across and will be a partner at the boutique. While the destination of the remainder of the team, comprised of partners Claudia Annacker and Philip Dunham and nine associates, is yet to be confirmed, Dechert said most of the team would be joining the boutique.

The move echoes the departure of Shearman & Sterling's Paris team to establish Gaillard Banifatemi Shelbaya Disputes in 2021, one of several arbitration boutiques to be established in Paris by former partners from international law firms in recent years.

Dechert's joint Paris managing partners, Sabina Comis and Melanie Thill-Tayara, said: "In Paris, Dechert is entering a new phase of its development and, while maintaining its outstanding position in life sciences, is increasingly supporting leading companies in the fields of asset management, private equity and technology." 

They added: “Eduardo and Jose-Manuel have significantly contributed to our firm for many years. We look forward to working together on projects where their experience will be an asset.”

Colombian-born Romero was the co-chair of Dechert's international arbitration global practice; he is well-connected internationally, not least for his work having chaired the International Bar Association's (IBA's) prestigious arbitration committee.

He said: "It is time to embark on a new professional journey within a business structure well suited to our clients' needs and the evolution of our business. Wordstone will enable us to continue supporting our clients while reducing the impact of conflicts currently limiting our growth. 

“After nearly 20 years at Dechert, we have built an experienced and close-knit team, and we are very proud to continue this adventure together.”

A former deputy secretary of the ICC International Court of Arbitration, he is the current chair of the ICC's Institute of World Business Law, also based in Paris, which held its annual conference in October, immediately before the IBA's annual meeting.  

Alongside his work with the ICC, he also sits as an arbitrator, having appeared as such in over 140 cases, while he is also a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) for Colombia. 

His departure from Dechert will allow him to potentially hear more cases as an arbitrator, free from conflicts with Dechert.

García Represa, meanwhile, joined from Latham & Watkins in 2008 as an associate and was a partner at Dechert for 15 years.

Romero's team secured a rare annulment of two arbitration awards last year when representing Poland in the Paris Court of Appeal, with the appellate court holding the awards were contrary to European law. 

The rulings were in line with the Court of Justice of the European Union's 2018 Achmea judgment that an investor-state arbitration clause in the Netherlands-Slovakia bilateral investment treaty (BIT) was incompatible with EU law. 

It was the first time that similar annulments had been obtained since the Achmea case, marking a shift in intra-EU investment disputes, with widespread implications for ongoing and completed intra-EU investment arbitrations and for the future of investor-state protection in the EU. 

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