2011 Round-Up – Europe: Hello, goodbye

While launches swept the Continent this year, with boutiques and new offices springing up all over, 2011 was also marked by the passing of many leading figures on the legal scene.

Launch-mania has been the mark of the European legal market in the past year, with new offices and boutique firms springing up across the Continent.

Most of the offices have been opened by UK or US firms wanting to increase their international ­presence at a time when domestic practices are faltering. In contrast, despite a solid 2010 in terms of financials, 2011 has been quiet for most Continental firms, which have chosen to focus on their home markets.

Indeed the biggest news not involving an Anglo-Saxon firm was the July announcement that Russia’s Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners and Ukraine’s Magisters were ­merging, creating a e100m-plus (£86m) CIS powerhouse.

Central power

Germany, Europe’s economic engine-room, saw the most new offices, with firms expanding their existing ­German footprints. Four firms – Bird & Bird, Eversheds, Norton Rose and German insolvency boutique Schultze & Braun – all moved into Hamburg, while Frankfurt was the destination of choice for Bryan Cave and France’s Lefèvre Pelletier & Associés.

Berwin Leighton Paisner also opened in Frankfurt at the same time as in Berlin, through picking up a team from Linklaters. In contrast, Mayer Brown shut down in Berlin as well as Cologne, shifting partner Friedrich Merz to Düsseldorf while keeping its Frankfurt office open.

Munich was the location for Olswang and Orrick Herrington & ­Sutcliffe. Olswang chose to focus on IP law, while Orrick picked up the German practice of US firm Holme Roberts & Owen for its Munich launch.

Outside Germany the big launch pads proved to be Brussels, Paris, Casablanca and Istanbul. Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, K&L Gates and ­Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati were at the forefront of a US charge for muscle in their competition practices by opening in Brussels. Martineau and Brodies also set up Brussels offices.

Canada’s Heenan Blaikie, along with McDermott Will & Emery and Olswang added to a frenzy of lateral hiring in Paris by entering the crowded French market with partner hires from a range of firms.

Frontier life

Europe’s frontiers are being ­constantly expanded and the move of a number of firms into Istanbul gives them a new way into Asia. Allen & Overy (A&O) and Clifford Chance were the leading UK names moving into Turkey – Clifford Chance affiliating with local firm Yegin Legal Consultancy and, in an end-of-year announcement, A&O saying it would practise English law only in Istanbul.

Others venturing into Turkey have included Baker & McKenzie and ­Chadbourne & Parke as well as ­German firm Graf von Westphalen and Austria’s Dorda Brugger Jordis.

The expansion is likely to continue over the course of 2012, although investment could be constrained by a sluggish second half to the 2011-12 financial year – perhaps leaving the door open for Continental firms to start their own moves.

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  • farewell to…

2011 has been a sad year for a number of European firms, which bade farewell to their founders.

  • Spain’s Uría Menéndez announced the death of co-founder Juan Luis ­Iglesias Prada, who died in March aged 69, shortly before his retirement.
  • Jean-François Prat, founder of Uría’s French best friend Bredin Prat, also died aged 69 in early April.
  • Arved Deringer, founder of ­Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer legacy firm Deringer Tessin Herman & Sedemund, passed away aged 98 in late October.
  • Spanish firm Gómez-Acebo & Pombo lost two of its founders in the course of the year. ­Honorary president and co-founder Ignacio Gómez-Acebo Duque de Estrada was 79 when he passed away in March, while Fernando Pombo died in November, aged 68.
  • Gómez-Acebo also announced the death at 55 of its real estate head Victoria Llavero following injuries ­sustained in a domestic accident.
  • In the US, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom founder Joseph Flom passed away in February, aged 87, after a career spanning more than six decades.

Other losses to the profession during the year included:

  • Supreme Court Justice Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, aged 66.
  • Linklaters Paris corporate partner Thierry Vassogne, aged 59.
  • Holman Fenwick & Willan aviation finance partner David Relf.
  • Hogan Lovells Middle East litigation head Stephen York.
  • Taylor Wessing proofreader Reg Frary, aged 91.