Deloitte to launch legal offering in Germany with Raupach acquisition

Deloitte is set to become the last of the so-called Big Four accountancy firms to launch its own legal offering in Germany by acquiring 100-lawyer national firm Raupach & Wollert-Elmendorff.

The audit giant is at the advanced stages of finalising a deal with the German mid-market corporate and M&A specialist, which already operates a strategic alliance with the New York-headquartered professional services group.

A merger – which is understood to be close to an announcement – is expected to see Raupach rebranded as Deloitte, although one option is said to offer the possibility for the legacy firm’s name to remain during a transition period.

The firms have been in talks since early this year, with the German press reporting attempts to create a closer relationship between Deloitte and Raupach for several months.

One source close to the firms said the “closed deal” was being “signed as we speak”, while another suggested the combination was likely to go live by mid-2013.

Raupach has been part of Deloitte’s network of law firms for approximately 15 years. Other firms in the group include Scottish-headquartered Dundas & Wilson.

Deloitte’s move would see it follow Big Four rivals Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) into Germany. Of these, PwC Legal is the largest with 186 lawyers in the jurisdiction in 2011-12, according to German legal magazine Juve, while KPMG Law had 165 lawyers.

EY Legal, part of Ernst & Young, is smaller in Germany, while rival BDO launched BDO Legal earlier this year with 40 lawyers across Berlin, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Hamburg and Kassel led by a team from former ally Dres. Lauter Otte & Knorr.

A source close to the firms said: “Once they’re fully integrated into Deloitte, they will become more or less an in-house legal department. They’ll be asked to help the tax people with M&A work. As far as transactional work within mid-cap M&A, they’ll probably disappear from the market.”

The source added: “I don’t think Deloitte will accept having Raupach in the brand name.”

Raupach turned over €26.7m in 2011-12, while PwC Legal’s German revenue in the same period was €48m, according to Juve. Raupach’s website says it has more than 90 lawyers across its offices in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanover, Munich and Stuttgart. Its strongest practice areas are M&A and corporate law.

Deloitte pulled out of its legal presence on the Continent in 2003 and set up its network instead (8 December 2003).

Deloitte and Raupach both declined to comment.