Ernst & Young's associated German law firm Menold Herrlinger has scored a coup by merging with two highly-regarded law firms in the industrial heartland of the Ruhr Valley.
Menold Herrlinger has merged with strong corporate firms Aulinger & Spieker in Dortmund and Bochum, as well as with Kraymeyer von Falkenhausen Hanke & Partner in Essen.
This brings Menold Herrlinger's numbers up to 125 lawyers in 13 different offices in Germany, making it the fifteenth biggest firm in the country.
There has long been speculation that Ruhr Valley firms, which have previously sat out the consolidation in the German legal market, would be forced to merge.
Hans Dieckhofer, partner in the Dortmund office, describes the tripartite merger as a quantum leap. "Growing to such a size ourselves would have been far too difficult," he says.
Dieter Menold, name partner in Stuttgart, says he is pleased.
He says: "[The firm has found] two classical and traditional firms with a national reputation.
"It shows we have long since left behind the image of being 'only' an accountancy law firm."
Falk Schornstheimer, editor at German legal magazine JUVE Rechtsmarkt, points out the significance of the development. "The Ruhr Valley has long been neglected by major German law firms. Many have thought that the market - which is after all the heart of the German industrial economy - could be served from Dusseldorf.
"Menold Herrlinger is seeking to exploit the considerable Mittelstand client base through the large Ernst & Young offices in Dortmund and Essen."
Other accountancy firms have also expanded in the last few months. PWC Veltins recently poached well-known media partners from Heuking Kuehn, and the law firm affiliated to Arthur Andersen merged with Hamburg firm Luther.