The bulk of Hogan & Hartson’s Berlin office has shunned the firm’s imminent merger with Lovells because of potential conflicts, spinning out to create a new firm instead.
A total of 18 Hogan & Hartson Raue partners will launch independent firm Raue when Hogan and Lovells merge to create Hogan Lovells on 1 May.
Six partners of Hogan & Hartson Raue and one New York partner who spends time in Berlin will join Hogan Lovells as planned.
Christian von Hammerstein, who will become managing partner of Raue, said: “We want to pursue a different strategy. We want to work in a more flexible, independent way and an environment with less client conflicts.
“It’s how we’ve worked for 20 years and believe we’ve set up a successful office and we want to continue like this instead of being a part of a huge organisation.”
Hogan opened in Berlin in 2001 after hiring a group of Oppenhoff & Rädler partners who did not want to be part of that firm’s merger with Linklaters & Alliance (14 August 2000). Hammerstein said the group of partners who are forming Raue have chosen to split off again because they do not want to work in an environment where UK-firm culture could be dominant.
“Here we were joining a US firm which had a different approach,” said Hammerstein, “Hogan & Hartson’s really a fantastic firm with a great culture, which supports individual lawyers, and UK firms tend to be a more hierarchical structure and have a stricter vision about what people have to do.
“Although the merger of Hogan and Lovells will provide good opportunities for our colleagues there, we believe that our strategy with a more flexible structure will be successful too.”
Christophe Wagner, who was one of the Oppenhoff partners to lead the split from Linklaters, citing a conflict with his client BSkyB, will not be joining Raue. He will instead take on the role of managing partner of Hogan Lovells’ Berlin office.
This is despite the fact that the merged firm will face a potential conflict over Hogan’s relationship with numerous Rupert Murdoch-owned businesses and Lovells’ commitment to trophy client ITV (8 February 2010).
While Lovells does not view a Berlin office as being strategically important, having closed its base there in 2006 (30 August 2006), Hogan’s offering in the city is viewed as being relevant to the local market, which has a strong media focus.
That said, Hogan chairman Warren Gorrell said the firm fully supports the new arrangement and is working with Raue to ensure a smooth transition.
“The lawyers who are leaving have contributed significantly to the success of our Berlin office, and we wish them well as they build a new firm,” he said.
News of the Berlin split comes after Hogan’s entire Warsaw office defected to K&L Gates (8 March 2010).