Grapevine

Latham feels the pull of the Munich slopes

Another week and another firm opening in Munich. Last week it was the turn of Latham & Watkins, which joins Kirkland & Ellis, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, Weil Gotshal & Manges and White & Case, among others. But what is it about the Bavarian capital that makes it so attractive to law firms and private equity houses? Booming economy? Great infrastructure? No. The real reason, as a recent visit to private equity houses in the city revealed, is that “you can go skiing at the weekend”.

Yes, the reason for the mass exodus to the south is the chance to wear brightly coloured jumpsuits, practise the slalom and go for black runs. One high-profile Munich lawyer muttered something about tax breaks for venture capital firms, but The Lawyer knows this comes second to the hunt for good powder.

And in the summer? “Well, there are the lakes and Munich is full of beer gardens.” With all this focus on the social aspects of the city, Munich firms better hope they do not find themselves going downhill as fast as their partners.

SJ Berwin senior partner race reaches home straights

It has only taken five months of consultation, but SJ Berwin has finally reached the witching hour, when the partnership will decide on the successor to senior partner David Harrel. And it looks almost certain that head of private equity Jonathan Blake will secure the title.

A discrete ballot of the partnership was opened late last week, with voting to be completed by tomorrow (13 December) at the latest. The vote follows the completion last Tuesday (6 December) of the partnership’s extensive, and somewhat convoluted, consultation on the nominees and election process.

Blake, managing partner Ralph Cohen and head of EU and competition Stephen Kon had all shown an interest in the role. But (as first reported in The Lawyer, 28 November) it looks likely that a joint ticket will see Blake installed as senior partner, with Cohen remaining as managing partner but with his role expanded to include extra areas of authority.

Field Fisher fields an ‘eccentric’ public sector star

Field Fisher Waterhouse may have secured quite a coup with its recent recruitment of partner David Gollancz from the Treasury Solicitor’s Department. Gollancz was the head of procurement and commercial contracts and the founder of the Tupe Taskforce. As such, he was known to drive a hard bargain with outside counsel, but how will he cope when the boot’s on the other foot?
Many private practitioners doubt the commerciality of lawyers recruited from the public sector, but Gollancz should cope. He has worked on a huge variety of public-private contracts, from the nationwide electronic tagging scheme to the £600-a-year contract for the bloke who cuts the Chelsea pensioners’ hair.

He’ll certainly get noticed. Described by one lawyer as “eccentric”, Gollancz has been one of the leading campaigners for the rights of children born by artificial insemination by donor to find their fathers. If he puts as much energy into his private practice as he has his campaigning, he’s sure to be a success.