A&O approves German expansion plans as part of worldwide growth strategy

Allen & Overy (A&O) Germany has been given the green light by global ­management to expand aggressively, following a two-month tour of its offices by worldwide senior ­partner David Morley.

In September 2010 ­Morley spent two months visiting A&O’s five German offices and told country ­senior partner Neil Weiand that he wanted to see the practice double in size over the next two years.

A&O Germany, which has around 180 lawyers in Germany and, according to Weiand, is already the firm’s second highest-earning jurisdiction, has made seven lateral hires so far this year.

Most recently it hired Hogan Lovells’ Frankfurt managing partner and employment specialist Hans-Peter Löw, who will be joined by a team of three associates.

Löw’s appointment was the second raid on Hogan Lovells’ employment team this year. In January, A&O hired the firm’s Frankfurt-based global employment co-head Thomas Ubber, along with three associates (TheLawyer.com, 21 ­January).

The hires are part of A&O’s wider strategy to become an all-round ­powerhouse.

“It’s not just our employment practice we’re expanding,” said Weiand. “These hires are part of a bigger strategy and a concerted effort worldwide to expand. Germany has always been a successful part of A&O’s business and has stuck out in banking and finance, as you’d expect from an A&O office. But after we lost some partners in 2009, we realised we’d neglected some areas, such as dispute resolution and employment.

“The German partners have now developed a detailed strategy, on a ­practice-by-practice basis, about where they stood in the market and what needed to be done to get to the top. In three to five years we want to be top-notch in all the practice areas we choose to operate in. We’ve made seven hires this year and made three internal promotions. More homegrown and lateral partners will be added in the future.”

According to Weiand, A&O is now satisfied with its employment capabilities and is looking at making ­lateral hires in other, ­weaker areas.

“We also want to beef up our corporate and M&A offering,” he said. “I think in quality terms we’re good, but if you look at the size of the team we could be bigger.”

According to Morley, the push for new partners is linked to the absence of a large-scale German merger in A&O’s history.

“We didn’t do a large merger like most of our competitors in Germany,” he said, “and so we’ve reached a stage where we have a good opportunity in front of us because we can pick and choose how and where we grow.

“This is one of Europe’s strongest economies so we should be investing to ensure we’re the right size for the local market. At 180 lawyers, we’re still relatively small compared with some of our competitors.”

A&O has five offices across Germany, in Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Mannheim and Munich.