The Leader Column

The tensions brought about by Anglo-German mergers were highlighted once again this week when the high-profile privitisation partner Werner Michael Waldeck announced that he was leaving Lovells Boesebeck Droste and taking his practice to Haarmann Hemmalrath.
Top of the list of reasons for his departure is his criticism of the spirit of Lovells since the merger. Apparently, he dislikes the firm's lack of entrepreneurship and is moving to Haarmanns because of its individualistic approach.
The message that comes across is that globalisation and the grow-quickly-through-merger strategy is creating a mould that is not always welcome. Not all partners want to accept the Anglo-Saxon lockstep system and there are still a number of independent firms in Germany fighting the trend for conversion.
Despite what Lovells might say, the departure of Waldeck is a significant loss. As well as being one of the leading lights in the privatisation market, his stint as the Frankfurt securities and board member of Frankfurter Wertpapierbörse means that he is extremely well-connected, particularly within the German government.
So while it may be true that government work is not necessarily highly profitable, Lovells has absorbed a number of other benefits on the back of his practice. Clients have been attracted to the firm through Waldeck's connections and Lovells has leveraged off his IPO work to help build its equity capital markets practice.
Haarmanns' claim that the move sets it alongside Freshfields and Hengeler Mueller may be optimistic, but is in line with a spirit which pays due respect to individuals.
Waldeck is precisely the kind of lawyer who sets aside a practice and gives a firm a good domestic reputation. Isn't this what firms need? And would they not do well to recognise it? Rather than ignore rumblings and grumblings, it is better surely to bend over backwards to keep one's high-profile practices – and do so even if the partners don't fit easily into the new 'globalised' firm.
Too much of this sort of movement in Germany and we could see a polarisation of firms, to the extent that the global ones represent international clients while the independent ones get the national clients.
Now that would be boring.
vanessa.pawsey@thelawyer.com