Ex-Landwell Belgian firm aims for pan-Euro referral network

Landwell’s former Belgian firm Lawfort (formerly Bogaert & Vande-meulebroeke) is attempting to set up a pan-European referral network with other firms still in, or formerly in, the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)-tied network.

Lawfort distanced itself from Landwell this June, cutting financial and branding ties to the group to become a Landwell ‘correspondent’ firm, with only loose referral ties to PwC. The majority of Landwell’s other European law firms – except for those in the UK, Germany and France – have already cut their ties.

Lawfort senior partner Marc Vandemeulebroeke told The Lawyer: “We’re looking for a network to complement our working relationship with PwC. We want firms with a high profile in the important European countries, especially the UK.” He also named France and Germany as crucial targets.

Lawfort has spoken to both of Landwell’s correspondent firms, Landwell France and PwC Veltins in Germany. The firm has already ruled out Landwell UK as too small for the potential network (The Lawyer, 29 September).

The Belgian firm is one of the largest in its own jurisdiction and is currently handling the e10m (£7m) Belgacom initial public offering. Vandemeulebroeke is also looking for new partners outside the Landwell network.

Meanwhile, Landwell France affirmed its ties with accounting parent PwC this week. The firm has slimmed down its audit referral practice as part of a strategic move to refocus on cross-selling PwC’s non-audit work.

The move is expected to claim around 65 lawyers and 15 support staff under a voluntary redundancy plan.
Senior partner Jacques Taquet said the redundancies were primarily a response to the regulatory climate in France, but that the situation had been exacerbated by a poor economy.

Taquet added that the streamlined audit referral practice would continue to support PwC on audit work. However, he said the firm wanted to change the profile of its client base by increasing the amount of work undertaken for non-PwC audit clients from 60 per cent to 85 per cent.