2Birds captures partner duo in volatile Frankfurt with Lovells, Willkie Farr raids

2Birds captures partner duo in volatile Frankfurt with Lovells, Willkie Farr raidsBird & Bird has boosted its Frankfurt office with the hire of two partners, taking Wolfgang Hess and Sven-Erik Heun from Lovells and Willkie Farr & Gallagher respectively.

Hess specialises in M&A and corporate restructuring work for clients in the IT, telecoms, energy and infrastructure sectors. Heun’s practice focuses on telecoms regulatory work, as well as data protection, internet law and e-commerce.

Alexander Schröder-Frerkes, ;Bird ;& ;Bird ­managing ;partner ;for ­Germany, told The Lawyer: “The fact that we can attract partners with their considerable expertise and reputation reflects the strength and development of Bird & Bird in Germany and also the success of ;our ;continued ;focus on key industry sectors.”

Prior to joining Willkie Farr as a founding partner in Frankfurt in 2000, Heun was a partner at Clifford Chance. Hess was a partner at Simmons & Simmons before joining Lovells in 2007.

The moves come at a volatile time for Frankfurt’s legal market, with some firms looking to add to their capacities in the country while others have scaled back.

Last ;month ;Salans hired Linklaters managing ­associate Ivana Mikešic as a partner focusing on energy, environment and public planning work. Mikešic brought an associate with her from the magic circle firm.

Last year also saw the launch of WilmerHale’s Frankfurt office with the hire of four Mayer Brown partners: corporate partner Rudiger Herrmann, IP ­partner Reinhart Lange, ­litigation partner Christofer Eggers and EU regulatory partner ;Hans-Georg Kamann. They have since been joined by one of WilmerHale’s corporate partners from Berlin, ­Christian Crones.

Salans managing partner for the Frankfurt office ­Holger Scheer said the bigger firms will be feeling the ­credit crisis ;more ;acutely ;in ­Frankfurt because of their close links to the big banks. He believes the smaller firms will be able to capitalise on opportunities presented by mid-market transactions, which have easier access to debt funding.

“It may be because we’re not that closely linked to the banking sector as much as other firms,” he said. “What we’re working on is not so affected by the crisis. Other firms that have focused on leveraged transactions have serious problems, such as my former firm Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Allen & Overy.

“We’re doing a lot of banking and capital ­markets litigation, which as you can imagine is a booming ­market at the moment. It’s simply that certain firms have a different strategic setup to others’. The smaller the deals are, the less they’re affected by the credit crunch. We’ve been in Frankfurt doing mid-cap deals from between E20m [£18.07m] and E200m [£180.73m].”

Scheer said Salans plans to double the size of its 14-lawyer Frankfurt office, which opened in 2008, adding that the firm is on the ­lookout for recruitment opportunities.

“If someone is offered to us with a transferable business in a solid practice area, then fine, but if not they can stay where they are,” he said. “What we’re seeing are a lot of young partners that haven’t had time to build up a solid practice yet.”

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