Sidley closes in Germany as Frankfurt exit confirmed

Sidley Austin is closing its Frankfurt office, its only base in Germany, following a spate of partner exits over the last two years.

The news follows a review of the office launched in February and makes Sidley the first firm to fully exit Germany for some time (25 February 2014).

Last year Shearman & Sterling consolidated its German operations in Frankfurt, pulling out of Düsseldorf and Munich (23 April 2013). Meanwhile Hogan Lovells closed Berlin after a raid by Morrison & Foerster (24 September 2013) and King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin also shut down in the German capital (14 March 2014).

Sidley’s Frankfurt office opened in 2006 with the hire of legacy Lovells duo Jens Rinze and Oliver Kessler (13 October 2005) and grew steadily, with partners joining from firms including Clifford Chance (25 October 2006).

The firm began losing its German partners in 2012, when regional managing partner Oliver Kessler quit to open a Frankfurt outpost for German firm Oppenhoff & Partner (18 October 2012). Corporate partner Jérôme Friedrich followed Kessler to Oppenhoff in July (13 July 2013).   

In December 2013, tax head Werner Geisselmeier quit for Pinsent Masons and in February this year corporate and compliance counsel Michael Brück, who joined Sidley in 2012 from local firm Schalast & Partner, moved to Norton Rose Fulbright.

Capital markets specialist Jens Rinze is now the only partner left in Sidley’s Frankfurt base.

A spokesperson for Sidley said in a statement: “As market conditions change, we have determined that our physical presence in Germany is not an imperative for our clients. Thus, we  have decided to close our four-lawyer Frankfurt office, and are in the process of winding down operations. The office has served the firm and our clients well, supporting both our global finance practice in London and the firm’s clients generally since 2006.

“As we have done routinely with respect to client matters too large for our small Frankfurt complement handle, or outside of their practice or geographic area, we will refer our clients to one or more German law firms in which we have, and many of our clients have, great confidence.”

Counsel Thomas Kulzer and associate Martina Bender are both joining Gleiss Lutz. A spokesperson for the firm confirmed Kulzer and Bender’s hires.

The destination of Rinze and counsel Andreas Kopp is currently unknown.