Ex-Hengeler partner quits Milbank after just ten days

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  • I hope John Grisham has read this story, as he'd love the whole 'no one ever leaves this firm' plot line. I don't know what this German partner did to upset his partners but 'The Firm' has well and truly stuffed him now.

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  • Nobody, absolutely nobody comes out of this looking good. Bad judgement on all sides.

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  • Long term readers of this magazine will remember the case of Frode Jensen, the Pillsbury Winthrop partner who was accused of sexual harassment by Pillsbury when he moved to Latham & Watkins. Jensen sued for US$45m and forced Pillsbury to climbdown. Given the publication of the Grobecker story and Hengeler's comment in the legal press around the world, one wonders whether Mr Grobecker will take action against Hengeler in the most plaintiff friendly forum he can find. This one could run for quite a while.

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  • What will do more harm to Hengeler's international reputation and business?

    a) a leaving partner blabbering about better international opportunities at his new firm

    or

    b) a public statement of a Hengeler's partner in return about alleged "inacceptable personal misconduct" of the leaving partner giving proof not only of a lack of serenity and aplomb with respect to the leaver's statement but also of seriously bad manners and style ("personal" issues should be dealt with personally among the people concerned and not publicly, the latter containing the risk of massive and uncontrollable consequences for the concerned)?

    This does not give a good impression of the current status of Hengeler, a firm having traditionally been proud of its fairness and style even in times of storm. It's a shame.

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  • What rot. "Personal misconduct" doesn't mean he didn't get on with somebody, it means he grabbed some associate's boobs or something. What reflects badly on Hengeler is their having apparently initially agreed to keep it quiet in the first place.

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  • I second Anonymous's statement above. It is hard to imagine a justifying ground for Hengeler's public statement. After all, based on their own account Grobecker's alleged misconduct is "not related to the firm's business". So why make "non-business matters" public? To an outsider that seems to be a grave error in judgment . There should have been a more discrete way to deal with this if it really needed to be dealt with.

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  • Very vindictive on the part of Hengeler - and shows a real lack of class.
    Whatever he's done - and we live in unshockable times so I doubt it was that bad - does he deserve to be humilated like this?
    Let the guy go the new firm, agree that we'll say publicly it was down to lack of interantinal opps, and keep the gossip down the pub.
    Not hard is it.

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  • A grave misjudgment on Grobecker's part. I have little sympathy. If you get fired from a firm for reasons that may taint your reputation forever you better keep your mouth shut and be grateful for having found a new top-paying job. He publicly insulted his former firm. Their reaction was foreseeable and appropriate.

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  • You got to take two facts into consideration: First, Hengeler`s stellar reputation is partly due to the fact that no one ever leaves this firm (except in a coffin). Second, Hengeler's biggest fear is that "the market" could grow doubts as to its capability to do international work on the same level as Freshfields and the like. Grobecker, working with Hengeler for a decade, was perfectly aware of this. Therefore, it would have been good judgment on his part, if he had simply kept his mouth shut after he was forced to leave Hengeler in November. However, he decided to twist the facts and make a statement to the press, claiming that he chose to quit Hengeler because he wasn't offered sufficient opportunities to do international work. Though I somehow pity him for being in this disatrous situation, it was his own stupid mistake to provoke Hengeler with his unnecessary statement. Reminds me of the old Latin saying: Si tacuisses, philosphus mansisses...

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  • Si tacuisses...the same is true for Hengeler, isn't it? It is a real suprise to see Hengeler acting like this. Why didn't they just remain silent on Grobeckers statement and let the facts do the talking? If there is significant international business at Hengeler (and I would venture to say, there actually is), there was no need for the "clarification". Otherwise, the market must assume that Hengeler hit a sensitive point. Either way, Hengeler's reaction appears just childish and inappropriately aggressive. Their reputation is already spoiled and I bet that people over there are starting to realize that this was not exactly a smart PR move.

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  • Si tacuisses, philosphus mansisses. Perhaps that goes for this forum as well?

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  • @parsley: er, exchange of views? free discussion? ever heard of this? if bothered, do not log in. Thanks.

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  • @Anonymous: er, kangaroo court? Trying someone by insinuation? The responsibility involved in free speech? Ever heard of this? No-one, other than the lawyer in question, or Hengeler partners really know what happened. If what he did was so awful, he deserves it. If not, it's an appalling reaction from his firm.
    But you don't. You have no idea. Until you do, do not log in. Thanks.

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  • I have never seen a law firm publicly announcing that the reason for the departure of one of their partners was gross misconduct. It is just mysterious how they could believe it would be helpful for anyone (incl themselves) to place this statement. Do they have a PR department in the first place?
    @parsley: agreed re responsibility involved with free speach but, hey, this is an online forum allowing for comments. Who are you telling people which qualification they need to bring to make a post on here? It is a bit paradox to repeatedly join this forum just to tell people to shut up (even when citing sophisticated latin).

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  • This is a PR nightmare for both sides.

    Why the hell couldn't Grobecker, Hengeler Mueller and the PR team sit down in a room and come up with an agreed party line that wouldn't damage either side.

    There's any number of bland "seeking a new challenge" lines that would have done the job.

    Unless there's more to this that we don't know, this is a spiteful move by HM and an error of judgment by Grobecker haveing a pop at their international model (but not one that deserved the HM response)

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  • He'll walk into another job, so I doubt he's that bothered. Hengeler come out of this looking chippy, like they threw a teenage strop when someone dared to leave them and ruin their wonderful record of retention. If Milbank have pressured him to leave then they look like bad guys too. If whatever he allegedly did was a sufficiently trivial item of misconduct for Hengeler to be happy for him to depart quietly, then (i) Hengeler should have stuck by that principle come what may and (ii) Milbank should have just sucked it up.

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  • @3.19
    I have serious doubts that "he'll walk into another job". Which firm would be inclined to offer him a new job given (i) the publicity connected with the matter, (ii) the fact that Grobecker has obviously caused problems at Hengeler (hence, some likelihood that he will cause problems at his new firm as well) and (iii) the fact that he is most certainly a bright lawyer, but not a rainmaker (so, why bother with him after all what happened?).

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  • He's a good, experienced lawyer looking for a home. They're not ten a penny.

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  • He'll find a job...but not at an Anglo-Saxon firm. They are probably paranoid about anybody who might cause problems at the workplace. But there are bound to be smaller German firms who would jump at the chance to get a Hengeler-trained lawyer. Rainmaker or not.

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  • @Ralph. This is not about free speech. For the simple reason that I am not the state and have no power to shut people up or make them say something. It's about a peer wondering whether it is more ethical, more moral sometimes not to say something. Of course that is a point which has to be argued and thus, yes, I have to join a forum to put forward that point of view.
    What Boethius (whoever that might be, because yes, I had to look it up the Latin as well) seems to be on to is that Jeremy Kyle does not equal virtue. It's not always wise to talk.

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  • what do you think the newspapers would pay for the true !??

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  • Oh look, I was right. He got another job no bother.

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