12 Dec 2022

Former A&O partner launches business and human rights focused boutique in London

Suzanne Spears unveils Paxus amid rise in disputes and investigations involving human rights issues

Suzanne Spears Image courtesy of Paxus

A former partner at UK magic circle firm Allen & Overy (A&O) has launched a business and human rights focused boutique in London with a team of seven other lawyers, including a trio who were previously at A&O. 

The new firm, named Paxus, will offer strategy, due diligence and dispute resolution services to corporate and government clients in the areas of international law, international arbitration and transnational law.

Its founder and principal, Suzanne Spears, was most recently a partner in A&O’s litigation, arbitration and investigations group, where she co-lead the global business and human rights practice and co-founded the ESG group. 

Spears noted the growing number of international disputes and investigations involving human rights issues and the very real risks associated with a business impacting people adversely. 

“Paxus will provide a conflict-free international legal advice and representation service to clients who are committed to building a sustainable future and conducting business with respect for human rights,” she said. 

Spears left A&O in June and has been joined at Paxus by three other former members of its London international arbitration team – Sebastián Mejía, a tri-qualified Spanish-Colombian lawyer, and Olga Owczarek and Finnuala Meaden-Torbitt, both English solicitors. Mejía and Owczarek are of-counsel at Paxus while Meaden-Torbitt is an associate. 

The ex-A&O team is also joined by Dr Kuzi Charamba, who specialises in sustainability-related legal matters globally and especially in Africa and joins Paxus from independent practice at his own firm as of-counsel. 

Rounding out the team is associate trio Aishwarya Nair, Sebastián Abad-Jara and Leonardo Camacho. Nair is an international arbitration and sustainable development specialist with a background in India and the Middle East who earlier practised at UAE law firm Al Tamimi & Company, while Abad-Jara focuses on international law and comparative constitutional law in Latin America and was most recently a research assistant at Human Rights Watch. Finally Camacho focuses on public policy and constitutional law in Asia and joins having earlier served as a policy adviser in the UK Government’s National Infrastructure Commission.

Spears praised the team’s “stand-out” combination of international relations and international law background with commercial awareness and experience.

Spears is herself a political scientist by background, having earlier held international law and policy positions with the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Organisation of American States before joining Debevoise & Plimpton’s international disputes team in New York in 2002. 

Spears moved over to A&O in 2018 after several years as a partner in London public international law boutique Volterra Fietta and as counsel in WilmerHale’s London office. She specialises in representing both investors and states in disputes arising under international investment treaties and has also served as lead lawyer in transnational tort litigations involving ESG issues. 

Spears’ decision to establish a boutique – thereby freeing herself of the conflicts associated with being in a large international law firm – echoes a number of other partners, notably in Paris. 

Among them were two Dentons Paris-based practice heads, Barton Legum and Jean-Christophe Honlet, who departed the firm early this year to launch their own international arbitration-focused boutique, Honlet Legum Arbitration. 

And last year Linklaters’ former co-head of arbitration, Pierre Duprey, set up his own Paris boutique, ADF Avocats, around the same time former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer lawyer Catherine Schroeder-Paillard left Derains & Gharavi to open Schroeder Arbitration in the French capital.

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