Christopher Dortschy is a partner in Debevoise & Plimpton Luxembourg S.à r.l. and an international counsel in Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. He leads the firm’s Luxembourg office and is a member of the firm’s Funds/Investment Management and Private Equity Groups.
Debevoise & Plimpton is a New York based law firm with one of the largest funds practices in the world, whether measured by the number of funds, total committed capital or resources devoted to private investment fund formation. Its global funds team includes over 150 corporate lawyers in the United States, Europe and Asia devoting their time to investment management. Debevoise & Plimpton have acted on behalf of sponsors of, or investors in, over 3,300 private investment funds with committed capital of over $4.6 trillion.
AMCHAM: Kindly tell our readers about the activities of Debevoise & Plimpton and the reason why they have come to Luxembourg.
Debevoise & Plimpton opened in Luxembourg in 2020. The office is headed by Christopher Dortschy who joined Debevoise from a Magic Circle firm, leading a team of associates who advises the firm’s clients globally on Luxembourg-related matters. The decision to open in Luxembourg was driven by several client-driven factors, such as Luxembourg’s position as a preferred jurisdiction for fund and transaction structures and the clients’ demand for quality lawyering and client service out of one hand, beyond the traditional “lead counsel-local counsel” model.
Can you tell us about the challenges and opportunities you have encountered while working on cross-border transactions?
I can’t remember the last time I worked on a matter that wasn’t cross-border! The opportunities speak for themselves – putting together investors and assets from different jurisdictions dramatically widens horizons. The challenges are real as well, though, especially from a legal perspective.
Expertise in regulatory environments in different jurisdictions is key, but perhaps more important is being able to communicate them. It takes practice to translate between languages, corporate cultures, and ingrained expectations in a way that is productive and doesn’t muddy the waters for a deal.
Networks are also important. That means maintaining good working relationships both with your own colleagues in other jurisdictions, as well as with contacts at local firms, regulators and other stakeholders. Any cross-border transaction is built on good cross-border relationships.
How do you approach the diverse legal systems and cultural differences that arise when working with clients from different countries?
Approaching discussions with an open and creative mindset as well as communicating in a clear and streamlined way. This will generally get you a very long way in getting everyone on the same page from an early stage. Working closely with jurisdictional experts helps as well a lot in identifying the key points to focus on.
How do you stay updated on international laws, treaties, and regulations that impact your clients’ businesses?
We can’t do our job without massively investing time and resources in our continued education. We have identified three key areas for this: Being actively involved in working groups at industry bodies, both at local and international level, nurturing a strong internal knowledge development team in our firm’s network and having regular exchanges with different stake holders within our industry.
What are the over-arching regulatory trends impacting your client base?
ESG and AML are hot topics one everyone’s agenda in the Luxembourg fund industry. This is keeping us busy at the moment. ESG has definitely come to stay. Getting a solid understanding of the different local flavours of regulations, and the direction of regulatory travel on a local, regional and international level is at the heart of our work here.
Then there’s the ongoing knock-on impacts of Brexit that we still feel. The funds landscape has been fundamentally redrawn by it, and the nature of the work we do in Luxembourg and in our other EU offices has followed suit.
We continue to be engaged with other regulatory developments, such as the evolution of AIFMD II and the upcoming pan-European loan-origination fund regime embedded therein. We look forward to guiding our clients through what is to come.
What makes Luxembourg a distinct business/corporate environment?
Luxembourg is an outstanding place for business, truly. It offers easy access to European markets, which is one reason why it has seen such a boost in activity post-Brexit. Its well-informed regulators do their bit as well. Those two factors, and others, coming together make for a business environment that is not easily found elsewhere. That is also why it has attracted a huge amount of talent, making it a hub for all kinds of businesses within, and beyond, the financial industry.
How do you manage the complexities of international compliance with regulations such as anti-corruption measures, export controls, and sanctions?
First and foremost, you have to be aware of the specific impact those regulations can have on your clients. It’s never a one-size-fits-all approach.
And as I touched on earlier, the team you work with and its depth of knowledge makes all the difference. Recognizing when you’re wading into an area that isn’t your field of expertise, and making use of experts bringing the right teams around the table, is the only way to make sure you’re guiding clients to the right decisions.
How do you effectively communicate and collaborate with global teams and legal advisors across various jurisdictions?
I’ve already mentioned that communication is key. Then, relationships that matter are to be built. Investing time in getting to know people both at a local and international level is the foundation on which you can leverage when you need quick answers and tailor-made out of the box solutions.
Can you share your views on the impact of globalization and international economic integration on the practice of international law?
The pace of globalization may have stalled a little, with more recent macro-political trends often working against it. But I think it remains a defining trace of our time. Regulatory approaches across jurisdictions are now less diverge than they used to be, and the areas of focus on cross-border transactions are actually closer than they have ever been. Still, true global economic and legal alignment is still some way off, meaning that the ability for a law firm to navigate legal systems across borders will continue to be a much sought-after skill for a long time yet.
Do you enjoy living and working in Luxembourg and do you still find time for any pastimes or hobbies?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer requires me to give you some background. One could say that my family is quite a stereotype expat family. My wife and I are originally both from different EU countries, met in Switzerland during our studies, went each back home thereafter, followed by a distance relationship over several years. We then chose Luxembourg as a “temporary hub” (I still had business to do in Germany) before moving to one of our home countries eventually. After some typical twists life sometimes takes – in our case it was the real estate and financial crisis heavily impacting Spain – I took on my first job as lawyer here. We then built a house, had three kids and have never considered leaving the country ever since. We are positively “stuck” in an environment that perfectly suits our own reality at home, where you can hear 4-5 different languages being spoken on a normal day. Our kids currently go to the public elementary school in our village, just a 10-15 minutes’ drive to our respective offices. Living here offers a great mix of nature and small-community village flair coupled with the cosmopolitism of our working environment in the City.