A boost for Freshfields in Germany?

Mettenheimer’s fancy new job could see Freshfields grab more work in Germany

There must have been a shortage of T-shirts in the Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer kit room in the past 27 years, as longstanding German partner Konstantin Mettenheimer’s attempt at a very Anglo-Saxon idiom demonstrates.

“As the English say,” the tax specialist quips, “been there, done that, so you wonder what’s next.”

What’s next for Mettenheimer is Edmond de Rothschild Group (EDR), the Franco-Swiss asset management group to which he has been appointed chairman for Germany. The Frankfurt partner is used to such roles after his time as Freshfields’ senior partner from 2004 to 2010, joint with Anthony Salz and then Guy Morton.

EDR- which is distinct from London-based bank and familial relative N M Rothschild & Sons (NMR) – approached him last autumn to beef up its German asset management business, which launched in 2010. It aims to spread into areas such as private wealth and financial advisory.

EDR has found a worthy person to lead this surge. Old-school Mettenheimer is a digit-cruncher who moved up through the ranks at legacy Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Löber before its merger with Freshfields and Deringer Tessin Herrmann & Sedemund in 2000.

He puts it simply: “As my wife said, ‘Aren’t you happy you can go back to the numbers?’”

Mettenheimer is the only continental European other than Baker & McKenzie’s Christine Lagarde (now head of the IMF) to have run a big global UK or US law firm. He is proud of this, as he is of his MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

He becomes his firm’s latest addition to EDR, whose general counsel Elizabeth Horner is ex-Freshfields. Mettenheimer will be separate from her team, working on the business side.

The fact that EDR works less with external lawyers than its larger, corporate finance-focused cousin means Freshfields’ increased presence is unlikely to lead to much more than a few private wealth referrals. But EDR’s German expansion may mean more action. Mettenheimer’s move into a new industry might allow him to do the firm one last favour.