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When Anibal Martin Sabater joined Houston’s Fulbright & Jaworski four years ago, he said he rarely got to use his Spanish skills. “We always had a strong Latin American presence when it comes to arbitration, but when I came here in 2003, I don’t think we had any arbitration cases in Spanish even though several of those involved Latin America,” said Sabater, a native of Spain who works as an international arbitration adviser. “Right now, it’s become a necessity for firms doing arbitration with Latin American companies to provide Spanish-speaking counsel,” Sabater noted. Expansion of U.S. companies’ work in Latin America, the growing sophistication of Latin American companies as well as the rising use of arbitration in general have driven the use of Spanish in this area, lawyers said. “For international lawyers and in particular those that do arbitration, language skills are a huge advantage,” said Richard Naimark, senior vice president of the International Centre for Dispute Resolution, a division of the American Arbitration Association. Naimark said his organization, which manages arbitration cases, has noticed more requests for services in Spanish, but said it was difficult to quantify the trend. He pointed out that a growing number of Latin American countries have been entering into bilateral investment treaties, most of which have provisions for international arbitration. A ‘political angle’ Sabater said one of his cases involves a Spanish client doing business with the Ecuadorian government. When the relationship went sour, the bilateral investment treaty provided for arbitration to take place in Spanish, he said. “It’s a little bit of a political angle,” he said. “Many of these cases are usually handled by the government, and the government wanted to ensure to be involved exclusively in Spanish.” A number of Latin American clients feel more comfortable with Spanish-speaking counsel, he said. But because international arbitration often involves complex matters, the clients prefer to stick with global, U.S.-based firms with lots of experience, he said. Arbitration in general also has been growing. A recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers on international arbitration in 2006 showed 73% of respondents said they prefer international arbitration to solve cross-border disputes, either alone or in combination with alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. The report found 95% of corporations expect to continue using international arbitration. A ‘continuous growth’ Dan Gonz�lez, a partner in the Miami office of Washington’s Hogan & Hartson who is co-director of the firm’s international litigation and arbitration practice, estimates that Spanish is now the official language in up to 40% of his cases. “It’s been a translation in the last five or 10 years and now it’s even more prevalent than it has been in the years past,” he said. “It’s been a continuous growth in the number of cases where the clauses state the language of arbitration shall be Spanish.” In addition to Latin American companies becoming more sophisticated and doing more global work, U.S. companies have been doing more business in Latin America, Gonz�lez said. There has been a boom in telecommunications, construction and other infrastructure projects in Latin American countries, and much of this work involves contracts with different countries and governments, he said. Because international arbitration can lead to rewards that are recognized worldwide, not just in a particular country’s courts, it has become the preferred method of solving cross-border disputes that are arising, Gonz�lez said. The International Chamber of Commerce’s annual conference in Miami that was held in November mostly took place in Spanish for the first time, Gonz�lez said. And a growing number of organizations dealing with arbitration have been focusing their seminars on work involving Latin America, he said. Sabater said he believes law firms will need to hire more bilingual lawyers as the use of Spanish becomes more popular. “English arbitration will never go away, not even for Spanish-speaking companies,” he said. “For example, when you need to choose arbitrators, the roster of people is larger than people who speak Spanish, so there are more places and institutions that can handle English-speaking clients than Spanish-speaking clients,” Sabater said. “However, I think certainly the percentage of my work that will have to be in Spanish, and Spanish only, will increase in the next five or six years.”

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