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Top five German firm Boesebeck Droste is talking to Hammond Suddards as well as Clifford Chance about an alliance leading to merger, it has emerged.
Hammond Suddards has publicly stated that it is talking to potential partners in Germany and France, and it is understood that one of the firms it is talking to is Boesebeck.
Boesebeck, with 64 partners and 150 lawyers, is likely to see 75-partner Hammonds as a better match than 260-partner Clifford Chance, which could completely swallow it. Hammonds is telling potential mates that it does not want a full merger to start with, but a single international marketing umbrella with merger a few years on if things work out. Both firms have a strong IP practice.
German firms began to appreciate the urgent need for international reach when Freshfields entered just such a strategic alliance with Deringer Tessin in January.
Boesebeck is itself the result of a merger at the beginning of 1997 between Frankfurt, Berlin and Dresden-based Boesebeck Barz & Partners and Droste RechtsanwAlte in Munich, Dusseldorf and Hamburg.
Boesebeck's spokesperson Michael Leistikow would not confirm the name of any firm he was talking to but said: "Our future will lie in international expansion - through a merger with an international firm."
Both Clifford Chance and Hammonds have declined to comment. Clifford Chance plans to have 1,000 lawyers on the Continent by 2000.