Freshfields is in merger talks with German firm Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Lober.
Similar talks with Gleiss Lutz Hootz Hirsch Rechtsanwalte were revealed just weeks ago but are believed to have been put on a back burner as the firm concentrates on the new target.
A merger with Gleiss would give Freshfields a strong presence in Stuttgart and Berlin but not as strong in Frankfurt, which is seen by many as a key entry point into the German market. And Gleiss, while renowned for the strength of its legal knowledge, tends to offer on-going legal advice rather than the large deals that Freshfields would be looking for.
Bruckhaus has 40 partners in Frankfurt whereas Gleiss has only 13.
A Freshfields spokesman says: “We talk to lots of individuals, teams and firms all the time in many countries. But we are not in merger discussions with anyone.”
Burkhard Bastuck, a partner in the Frankfurt office of Bruckhaus, says: “In the last year or so we have received a lot of inquiries regarding merger talks with lots of parties. There have been press reports on all of these but none have materialised.
“For a year we have been in an intense internal process of defining our international strategy. In doing that we have received visits from firms around the world.”
On the issue of a merger with Freshfields, he says: “We will not deny or confirm this.”
Sources within the German market believe that Freshfields is keener on the merger than Bruckhaus as there has been much debate within the German firm as to whether to merge with a US or UK firm.
In July Bruckhaus and Clifford Chance broke off merger talks, with Clifford Chance eventually selecting Punder Volhard Weber Axster as its marriage partner.
Bruckhaus has also been in merger talks with US firm Shearman & Sterling and Spanish firm Uria Menendez.