Lovells’ Berlin office faces uncertain future

Losing a five-person team from one of your offices is something most managing partners would rather not have to deal with on their watch.

However, for Lovells’ Continental Europe managing partner Harald Seisler, losing his Berlin banking team was disappointing, but not completely out of the blue.

“It wasn’t unexpected because they were banking lawyers and the firm had said the focus and future investment for banking would be in Frankfurt,” explains Seisler. “But what was surprising and unexpected was the timing. We’re sorry to lose these people because they were good lawyers.”

As reported by The Lawyer (8 May), Berlin-based acquisition finance partners Thomas Lindemann and Andreas Schwennicke left Lovells to set up their own firm, taking three associates with them.

The move sparked debate about the future of the Berlin office, which has suffered a series of departures since it was decided last year to focus on regulatory and project finance work. Other departees include former Berlin managing partner Volker Jesch and real estate partner Nicolas Ley.

Seisler says he is undecided as to whether the office is closing. “We’ll continue to look at how we can develop Berlin. The office remains profitable,” he says.

Seisler also points out that there are still five partners in the office covering corporate, dispute resolution and projects.

Of course, Lindemann and Schwennicke are not the only partners to have walked out of Lovells’ German operation. In April, Frankfurt capital markets partners Oliver Kessler and Jens Rinze shocked the market by joining Sidley Austin‘s German start-up.

Seisler is not fazed by this and says the firm will soon be announcing replacements. He does not want to talk about Sidley in particular, but says he does not understand the strategy of US firms in Germany. “I’m sometimes surprised at seeing such a large number of American firms coming in. As long as they bring their own clients with them they’ll have work, but the firms who have been in Germany the longest already have their place in the market,” he says.