Hogan Lovells’ lawyers cast off their chains

Firm closes Berlin office after lawyers go in search of the conflict-free life at MoFo

Conflicts are often an issue for international offices caught up in a global merger and Hogan Lovells seems to have suffered particularly in the years since its tie-up. A key client for one group is not necessarily a key client for the firm’s overall strategy.

In Germany an important client for Hogan Lovells is Deutsche Telekom – the firm’s IP team manages the company’s worldwide trade mark portfolio. But earlier this year high-profile media partner Christoph Wagner wrote an article in the German press criticising the company’s strategy over data allowances for customers. Now Wagner, who does not act for Deutsche Telekom himself, is leading the whole Hogan Lovells’ Berlin office to Morrison & Foerster (MoFo) in the hope that the 30-strong team will find a new, conflict-free environment.

MoFo chair Larren Nashelsky said the team “wanted a firm that did not represent some of the large German incumbent players in the space”. This was confirmed by Wagner. 

“In a world where media and telecoms companies are merging it’s important to be able to work without being blocked by conflict. We’ve checked that the new platform will not restrict us,” says Wagner.

Wagner’s team is not the first to leave an international firm because of conflicts. Conflicts famously contributed to US firm Howrey’s downfall after 12 European IP partners quit in 2010 to launch IP boutique Hoyng Monegier. A group of Berlin partners from legacy Hogan & Hartson also declined to join the Lovells merger, instead setting up as Raue. Wagner’s team is unusual in that it is joining another global firm, albeit one with a smaller European footprint.

Hogan Lovells will now shut up shop in Berlin and focus on its other three German offices, which generate 90 per cent of revenue from the jurisdiction. Meanwhile, the departing team is looking forward to picking up the phone
to untapped telecoms giants from their MoFo base. Let’s hope this team has seen the end of practice-based fisticuffs.