Travers abandons Berlin for best friends strategy

Travers Smith

has shut down its German operation, forcing all five of its Berlin-based lawyers to find a new home at Salans.

As first revealed on www.thelawyer.com (10 January), Travers will now operate a best friends system in Germany, as it prefers to do in most jurisdictions. It is understood that the firm has referral relationships with Hengeler Mueller, Noerr Stiefenhofer Lutz and P&P Poellath & Partners.

Travers senior partner Alasdair Douglas denied that closing Germany was proof of a failed international strategy, saying: “That’s not how we see it. Opening offices around the world is not our strategy. We prefer to use best-friend relationships and Germany was a one-off.”

Douglas would not comment on whether or not the Berlin office was making a profit, but did say that in private equity, corporate finance and technology, media & telecommunications the volume of work was not as high as expected.

Travers opened in Berlin in October 2001, taking Karl Pilny from Coudert Brothers. It was its first office with a foreign law capability.

The firm still has a Paris office, which opened in 1999, but it only advises on English law. “We’re absolutely committed to being in Paris and it’s a totally different situation,” said Douglas.

Travers’ exit from Berlin follows the departures of Clifford Chance and Lovells from the German capital. Lovells closed its Berlin outpost in August 2006, while Clifford Chance shut down its Berlin operation in 2005.

Salans chairman Stephen Finch said: “We’d been looking to build Berlin up with more competence. We now get a team of excellent experience and the bonus of a few clients as well.”