Freshfields’ Paulsson boutique co-founded with partners from Covington, Jones Day and Shearman

Three partners from Covington & Burling, Jones Day and Shearman & Sterling are to join Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s London arbitration chief Constantine Partasides QC and ex-partner Jan Paulsson to launch an arbitration boutique.

Covington & Burling London partner Gaetan Verhoosel, Shearman & Sterling Todd Wetmore from Paris and Jones Day’s Luke Sobota, currently based in Washington, DC are leaving their firms to launch the boutique this year.

They will join Freshfields Paris partner Georgios Petrochilos, who is also leaving the magic circle firm to work with Paulsson and new silk Partasides QC (17 February 2014). The group is understood to be setting up the boutique across three offices in Washington DC, Paris and London and will be leaving their firms in 2014.

Covington international arbitration co-chair Verhoosel is counsel and arbitrator in commercial and treaty arbitrations and adds weight in cross-border energy arbitrations. His key clients include oil companies Perenco Ecuador and Occidental Petroleum and he has advised on claims exceeding $100m in an English law ICC arbitration over African assets in recent years.

Former Debevoise & Plimpton partner Verhoosel joined Covington in 2009, a move aimed at bolstering the London practice. 

That followed a two-year appointment as legal adviser at the World Trade Organiation (WTO) in Geneva where he advised WTO dispute settlement panels, between 2000-2002.

Wetmore comes from Shearman & Sterling’s formidable Paris arbitration team. The partner also leads on major oil and gas deals including petroleum production sharing disputes, chiming with Partasides’ Paris experience.

The Freshfields partner spent 10 years practising in the Paris office before returning to the UK in 2007 to head up the arbitration team in London. His recent matters include representing as lead counsel more than six oil majors in different multibillion dollar disputes with state parties related to investments across three continents.

Jones Day partner Luke Sobota is expected to keep flying the flag for Washington DC, having been a partner in the firm’s US office. The litigator brings extensive US experience, having written briefs in the Supreme Court and numerous federal appellate and district courts. Most recently he has been working on an adverse multibillion dollar judgment against Chevron in Ecuador including related international arbitration at the Hague and foreign enforcement proceedings.

He also clerked for the late Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court in Washington.

The six partners are co-founding the as yet nameless boutique following the news of the three Freshfields departures last week. It follows former Freshfields arbitration heavyweight Paulsson’s retirement from the firm last year (12 March 2013).

Together with Petrochilos he served as adviser to the Uncitral secretariat in connection with the revision of the Uncitral arbitration rules. Petrochilos is currently representing Greece as a delegate to Uncitral, according to Freshfields’ website.       

On Verhoosel’s departure Covington management committee Timothy Hester said: “We thank him for his contributions to our international arbitration practice, and wish him well in this next chapter of his career.

”We expect to continue to work closely with Gaëtan on existing as well as new matters, and we see a bright future for this practice. Allan Moore continues his leadership role as co-chair and joining him in that role is Marney Cheek, who recently prevailed in a high-profile arbitration against the Russian Federation stemming from the expropriation of the Yukos Oil Company, and currently represents Eli Lilly and Company in a major investment dispute with Canada.”