Olivier Rivoire is not a man who is happy to stay in his comfort zone. Throughout his career, he has pushed himself – from studying for a year in the US, to trading a steady role to start his own law firm from scratch.
It is that drive to learn and take on new roles which has resulted in such a varied career. This experience has been put to good use as he builds his own practice.
Education and background
Olivier’s journey in the legal sector began with work at law firms in Geneva and Zurich. However, he decided to further his knowledge by pursuing an LLM program at Georgetown University in the US for a year.
“It was a great experience because I met a lot of people from all around the world and it also gave me the opportunity to travel within the US,” he says. “After the LLM programme, I returned to Switzerland and worked for Swiss law firms.”
It was at this point Olivier decided to specialise in banking and finance, which he concedes is an obvious choice given Switzerland’s reputation as a centre for these sectors.
Several years later, he joined the Swiss banking regulator, FINMA, where he gained a comprehensive understanding of the banking industry and its regulatory framework. This experience provided him with valuable insights into the inner workings of the financial sector and gave him a competitive edge in his subsequent roles.
“When you work for FINMA, you know everything that is happening in the banking market and that was very interesting,” he says. “But then I wanted to work in banks because I’ve seen the regulatory side, but I also wanted to see the banking side, so I decided to work for Swiss banks within the legal department”.
“It was also very interesting to understand another way of working because there, I was not only working with lawyers, but also relationship managers, IT and compliance. There are many different people around the table from various backgrounds and it can be harder to understand each other at the beginning, so you have to find a level where you can.”
Immigration law: a growing field
In addition to his specialisation in banking and finance, Olivier has also developed a strong practice in immigration law. With Switzerland being an attractive destination for foreign companies and employees, the need for expert advice on immigration matters has grown exponentially. Olivier recognized this demand and expanded his services to include immigration law as part of his practice.
“Foreign clients often want to set up a presence here in Switzerland, so they need advice on immigration law, so I specialised in that as well,” he says.
Foreign clients, particularly those seeking to establish a presence in Switzerland, often require guidance on obtaining the necessary working permits and navigating the complexities of immigration regulations.
Olivier’s expertise in this field has allowed him to assist numerous clients in successfully navigating the immigration process, making their transition to Switzerland as smooth as possible.
“Switzerland is an attractive country for foreign companies because of its political stability, the stability of the currency and the people – we are not going to make any revolutions in Switzerland,” he laughs. “When you invest in the Swiss market you know where your money is and it will remain a safe haven as there is no political will to change the system.”
Out of the comfort zone
While Olivier was comfortable working in the banking sector, he felt he was missing something. “I was comfortable at the bank; I got my salary at the end of the month, and I had no real trouble. But I was missing something spicier in my life,” he says. When you’re an employee, you can be fired because of decision of the management. It’s important for me, the idea of freedom and that I decide what I want to do and not someone else.”
“On the first day of joining the firm, I had no clients. Maybe I was a bit crazy to do it, I don’t know. But I talked to people before leaving the bank and they told me they would give me some work. The reality is not like that. Some never show up. But then other people come to your office and say ‘we have heard that you are partner of a law firm, we’d like to retain you as our lawyer.’ I was out of my comfort zone, but we made it work.”
Balanced approach to growth
He certainly did, and the firm is now 15 lawyers strong. Olivier maintains a clear vision for the future and while he is ambitious and aims to grow his practice, he is mindful of the importance of maintaining a balanced and personalized approach.
“We are ambitious, and we want to grow the practice, but not have a huge law firm,” he says. “We are boutique, and maybe we can grow to about 20, but not much more.
“We like our size and our clients do too, because when they come to see us, they see us. When you go to very large law firms, sometimes you don’t see the partner, you see a young lawyer and it’s not what you’re looking for.”
Olivier believes that this personalised approach is what clients value the most, and it has been instrumental in his firm’s success.
He takes this personalised approached to finding new clients too, which is one reason he joined IR Global. “It is difficult to find a good balance between finding new clients and working with existing ones,” he says. “This is why I like to attend IR Global events. I think it’s a very good way to network and to meet people, in Switzerland and in Europe, because in three hours by aeroplane or train, you can go almost everywhere in Europe. I’m trying to do a bit more now, but it’s always difficult to leave the office because when I’m not there, the work is not.”
Olivier’s journey in the legal and financial world is a testament to his expertise, passion, and commitment to his clients. With a deep understanding of banking, finance, and immigration law, he has become a trusted advisor for clients seeking comprehensive legal solutions.
As he continues to grow his practice, his focus remains on providing exceptional service and maintaining a balanced and client-centric approach.
Out of office hours, he likes to spend quality time with his family: “That is very special for me – I’ve worked hard at my career but I won’t miss out on spending time with my wife and children. That’s an area I won’t compromise on.”