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German heavyweight Noerr’s co-leaders reveal the secret of their firm’s success.
Over the past few years, while most of the rest of Europe has struggled, Germany has flourished. And German law firms have ridden the crest of that unlikely wave, with most reporting year-on-year growth for 2013.
Within Germany, one of the stand-out performers is Noerr. Just five years ago the firm had revenue of €130m, but with substantial growth each year since, it has now added a whopping 47 per cent to its top line and is on the verge of breaking through the €200m barrier (26 March 2014).
Noerr is now the second-largest firm in Germany by revenue, stretching away from third-placed Gleiss Lutz. It is the biggest when it comes to the number of employees.
The firm’s co-speakers, or managing partners, Tobias Bürgers and Alexander Ritvay, attribute the growth to a determined strategy to focus on three core areas – regulatory, litigation and corporate.
Both believe that as a result of this strategy Noerr is taking market share from its rivals.
“We’re outgrowing the market,” says Ritvay with confidence.
Ritvay notes that unlike some other Germany firms, Noerr’s hiring has been generally conservative in recent years.
“We’ve added a few people,” he says, “but less people than revenue. We’re trying to consolidate what we have in a positive sense.”
The duo are also confident that Noerr is moving up in the world. While its traditional client base has been Germany’s powerful mid-market industrials and corporates, Noerr now lists many of the same key clients as firms like Gleiss and Hengeler Mueller, both of which are traditionally seen as more blue-chip outfits.
For example, Noerr shares Deutsche Bank, healthcare group Fresenius and conglomerates giant Thyssen Krupp with Hengeler, and automotive group Daimler and Deutsche Bank with Gleiss.
Bürgers and Ritvay say the rise in revenue has been coupled with an ability to avoid reducing the firm’s price.
“If you looked at the development over the last eight to 10 years, there was only one year where fees per hour were stable,” says Bürgers, adding that the firm has also moved to a more efficient, structured way of working with more junior lawyers and paralegal staff.
However not quite everything has gone Noerr’s way. Its growth last year came wholly from Germany, with a declining revenue from the firm’s Central and Eastern European offices – indeed the firm shut down in Kiev last summer (26 July 2013).
According to Ritvay, new investments in the region will continue to be limited “until there’s less volatility in these markets”.
“We’re still very happy to be on the ground,” he says of Noerr’s non-German offices, which include the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Russia.
Moving forwards Noerr, which maintains its independence fiercely, is not planning to expand geographically in the short term.
“We want to further integrate, we want to have qualitative growth across the board,” Ritvay says. “It’s an evolution more than a revolution.”