Gibson Dunn lands outgoing European Court of Human Rights president in London

Judge Robert Spano will join the US firm in January as of counsel
A photo of Judge Robert Spano

ECHR president Judge Robert Spano Photo courtesy of Gibson Dunn

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher has hired European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) president Judge Robert Spano, whose term at the court ends this month.

Spano will join the US firm in London as of counsel at the start of January, where his practice will focus on advising clients on multi-national disputes related to digital rights, public international law and investor-state arbitration as well as matters related to business and human rights, environmental, social and governance and government affairs and public policy.

Philip Rocher, head of the London dispute resolution group at Gibson Dunn, said: “Judge Spano has overseen transformational change at the court, and has presided over a period of multiple generational human rights challenges for Europe. His role has involved extensive diplomatic and policy engagement with the governments of individual signatory states within the Council of Europe and with the EU institutions, in particular the European Commission.”

Iceland-born Spano has been a judge at the ECHR since 2013, becoming vice president in 2019 and then president in May 2020. Prior to his time at the ECHR he was Iceland’s parliamentary ombudsman and a professor of public law at the University of Iceland. Spano is an expert in the field of digital rights and has been involved in a range of policy work related to challenges in areas such as disinformation, online content moderation and freedom of expression.

His arrival at Gibson Dunn is the latest in a series of hires the US firm has made in Europe over the past 12 months as it seeks to grow its London office. 

In June it hired a tech partner duo – Joel Harrison and Alison Beal – from Milbank. Last December it made a quartet of partner-level hires from US rival Sidley Austin and magic circle firm Linklaters, including private equity trio Till Lefranc, Wim De Vlieger and Isabel Berger and capital markets lawyer Hugo Hernández-Mancha. And in October last year it hired another trio of private equity lawyers from Vinson & Elkins, including Federico Fruhbeck, Robert Dixon and Alice Brogi.

The Los Angeles giant has also signalled its ambition to grow its Middle East practice after hiring a senior corporate partner in Dubai earlier this week. Marwan Elaraby is joining from US rival Shearman & Sterling. 

Earlier this month, the Gibson Dunn London team advised US private equity giant KKR on a $3.4bn deal to acquire a minority stake in Norwegian fibre network business Telenor Fiber.

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