Grapevine

German firm seeks friendship, but nothing serious
At the end of last year German firm Beiten Burkhardt ended a tug of love between Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) and Eversheds by choosing an informal network of best friends rather than the formal alliance favoured by both UK firms. Strangely, Beiten claims this was never an option.

The former KLegal firm spent much of 2004 re-establishing relationships neglected during its marriage to KPMG. In the UK, BLP and Eversheds will share Beiten’s affections with Dickinson Dees and Maclay Murray & Spens. The reactions of BLP and Eversheds to this news could not be more pronounced.

BLP is delighted with its new ‘best friend’. It has also managed to get its US ally on to the list. Kramer Levin joins Dorsey & Whitney, Sidley Austin Brown & Wood and Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz as a best US friend.

Eversheds is more disgruntled. It negotiated in the expectation of a formal association, and that remains its goal. Eversheds will plough on. It has other irons in its German fire, so may not remain Beiten’s best friend for long. After all, just how many best friends is one entitled to?

Norton Rose’s international mystery man
January is the time of year when firms start looking ahead to April, the end of the financial year – and also, for some, the time when management is re-elected. Back in 2002, Norton Rose decided to completely rejig its management structure, replacing the traditional managing partner with a chief executive. After a three-way battle, partners plumped for litigator Peter Martyr, who stood on a platform of making the firm’s international strategy work.

Three years on and Martyr’s election for a second term may not be such a dead cert. The lengthy disentanglement from Cologne (the establishment of which was 2002’s success story) has damaged his credibility. And although it is about time the firm moved into one building rather than its seven City sites, an expensive south-of-the-river development may not be the right home for Norton Rose after all.

Come April, Norton Rose partners will have the chance to decide. Has Martyr really delivered on his post-election promise of “making the network work”?

Hiring spree paints brighter outlook for Mofo
After years of torpor, Morrison & Foerster (Mofo) looks like it has found a decent firm of headhunters. Last week it secured its second partner raid in a couple of months by taking Weil Gotshal & Manges corporate partners Paul Claydon and James Gubbins. The pair’s pharmaceutical focus made a departure from Weil Gotshal inevitable.

The news comes just as the dust of November’s raid on Shaw Pittman is settling. Four Shaw Pittman associates are set to join partners Alistair Maughan, David Skinner and Andrew Smith at Mofo. Three associates have chosen to remain at Shaw Pittman.

Mofo has never managed to crack The Lawyer’s list of the top 25 international firms, but at the current rate of recruitment it could just get there by 2006.

Mofo has even managed to bust out of its tiny backstreet offices and is moving into space kindly cleared for it by Simmons & Simmons, which negotiated hard apparently. Hey, who needs lawyers when you can make a perfectly good living as an estate agent?