German shipping boutique hires Watson Farley partner for City launch

German shipping boutique Ehlermann Rindfleisch Gadow (ERG) has launched in London with the hire of a partner from Watson Farley & Williams.

Shipping finance partner Richard Henderson joined the firm last Monday (1 November) as London managing partner as part of ERG’s first foray outside Hamburg.

The firm is also transferring Hamburg associate Loïc Brasquer to the new London office, which is housed in the CityPoint building.

It hopes to expand further in the capital and plans to have a team of three or four associates within a year, with one partner for the time being.

ERG managing partner Stefan Rindfleisch said Henderson’s shipping finance practice at Watson Farley was the English-law mirror image of the German boutique’s German-law practice, which acts for leading German banks.

ERG had been eyeing a London launch for several years, but had struggled to find the right partner to launch the office. The 18-lawyer firm was approached over the summer by Henderson, who was looking to move to a smaller firm.

It said it planned to develop the London office fast without losing its boutique culture.

Rindfleisch said in a statement: “[Henderon] has worked extensively on ship finance transactions and restructuring matters, advising the leading shipping finance banks as well as ship owners, including a number of our existing key clients. Richard is therefore a perfect fit for our firm. As an English solicitor Richard considerably enhances our capabilities.”

The launch mirrors the trend for City firms to launch in Hamburg, a popular hub due to its vibrant shipping and real estate markets.

Watson Farley itself launched in Hamburg in 2005 with two external hires (4 July 2005). Norton Rose set up shop in the north German city with a raid on DLA Piper earlier this year (25 February 2011).

ERG’s City launch follows the antics of a small number of German firms that have spread to London.

Haarman Hemmelrath, which had a London outpost, opened in London in 1999 (6 July 1999) but collapsed in 2006, while German independent Noerr launched in the City last year (11 March 2010).