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The partners of top 10 German firm Beiten Burkhardt Mittl & Wegener have voted in favour of a strategy to merge with law firms in France, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands and Spain before linking with a leading US or UK law firm.
The firm already has a shortlist of potential mates and intends to narrow these down to one in each country by the end of the year.
The firm's 164 lawyers were told of the plan this month at their annual conference in Nuremburg.
The plan rejects the Deringer Tessin/Freshfields model of merger between German and UK law firms; the firm instead preferring to first strengthen itself in continental Europe. It wants to avoid being swallowed up by a large City firm.
Partners also rejected the option of linking up with one of the Big Five accountants.
Senior partner Dr Jurgen Burkhardt said: "Our expansion will not be by new offices. We plan now to go together with European partners."
Burkhardt said the firm was looking at firms with strong capital markets, financial services, mergers and acquisitions, telecoms and IT practices. He added that a decision on the individual firms would be made before the end of 1998.
Munich-head quartered Beiten Burkhardt has eight offices in Germany - the Dusseldorf office will open on 1 July - and nine international offices that include Prague, Budapest and Beijing.