De Brauw set for Amsterdam growth with Freshfields team

Dutch heavyweight De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek is poised to raid the Amsterdam tax team of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

As The Lawyer went to press, De Brauw was set to vote on hiring senior tax partner Dick Hofland, an international tax and structured finance specialist, along with a junior partner. De Brauw is also understood to be considering hiring Paul Sleurink, another tax expert who left Merrill Lynch last year.

Hofland, a highly-rated tax specialist, was previously a partner at Dutch tax firm Loyens & Volkmaars, which merged with the Rotterdam office of the legacy Loeff Claeys Verbeke on 1 January 2000.

Freshfields’ Amsterdam managing partner Hans Galavazi told The Lawyer: “In the short term we’ll definitely be able to manage the practice with our current strength.”

Freshfields currently has a three-partner tax team in the Netherlands, which includes Galavazi, and eight associates, out of a total office of 14 partners and principal consultants.

Galavazi added that Freshfields would be losing a “very valuable” partner, while the loyalty of Hofland’s client base meant it would be likely that the firm would also be losing clients as a result of his departure.

De Brauw declined to comment.

Freshfields denies Dutch tax restructuring
Leaving Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for the largely domestic tax practice of De Brauw – if indeed that is where Hofland pitches up – is a curious move. It is certainly raised a few eyebrows in the Netherlands.

Freshfields’ average profits per partner last year stood at £700,000. De Brauw’s figures are not available, but it is a safe bet that they are at least 30 per cent lower than Freshfields’, perhaps even less.

According to Freshfields’ Amsterdam managing partner Hans Galavazi, Hofland’s departure is not part of a restructuring of the Dutch tax team. That team might appear heavy at first glance, with currently four tax partners out of a total of 14 partners or equivalent in Amsterdam. But the firm is looking to grow in he Netherlands, not shrink. It is looking at almost doubling its floor space, from the current 4,000 square metres to 7,000.

Dick Hofland is the only departure from the tax team. He is undoubtedly a loss, but he is keeping his reasons for leaving to himself.