Former Herbies ally Gleiss to ape Slaughters with Euro alliance

Four of Europe’s biggest independent law firms are teaming up in a new alliance that covers much of the Continent in a challenge to internationalisation.

Italy’s Chiomenti Studio Legale, Iberian firm Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira, France’s Gide Loyrette Nouel and German firm Gleiss Lutz are in talks about ways to to strengthen their relationship.

The Lawyer understands that the firms’ practice groups have been meeting over recent weeks, with the banking and finance teams the latest to get together to discuss the possibilities presented by the alliance.

Sources close to the talks said the intention was to model the alliance on Slaughter and May’s ‘best friends’ relationship with Bonelli Erede Pappalardo, Bredin Prat, Hengeler Mueller and Uría Menéndez.

One source said that while there would be no formal alliance, it was true that the four firms wanted to deepen their relationship and would be each others’ preferred partners for work in the five jurisdictions they cover.

Together, the four firms turned over more than €715m (£578m) in 2011, and had 480 partners and 1,890 lawyers. All four are among the top 15 independent European firms by revenue.

Gleiss is teaming up with the other firms less than a year after its alliance with Herbert Smith and Stibbe came to an end (22 December 2011).

Stibbe is not involved in the new alliance. The firm did not return requests for comment.

Late last year, Gide’s incoming managing partner Stéphane Puel said the firm was switching its international strategy in favour of alliances (12 December 2011), after several years of attempting to build its own international network. Gide has closed offices in the Middle East and Eastern Europe in recent years and its London office continues to make a loss.

Chiomenti and Gide are among a handful of European firms to have tried to offer English law capability in London. Among the others, Salans is shortly to merge with SNR Denton and Fraser Milner Casgrain (7 November 2012) and Norwegian firm Wikborg Rein focuses solely on shipping law.

The news comes at the same time as a number of sources said that Cuatrecasas is preparing to close down three of its international offices. London, New York and Shanghai are all understood to be earmarked for closure.

However, the firm has denied the closures. In a statement it said: “We confirm that our strategic plan is to maintain our current international presence, and, in particular, maintain our offices and an address, in due time, a renewal of the partners responsible for the offices of New York and London as has been done regularly as normal since the establishment of our offices in those cities and strengthen our operations in Shanghai, because we’re experiencing a growth in the demand for services in this office.”

Chiomenti and Gide did not return requests for comment. Gleiss Lutz declined to comment. A spokesperson for Cuatrecasas confirmed that the firm was part of the alliance but declined to comment further.