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Norton Rose is facing a spate of partner departures in Cologne that will leave it with no property and construction capability in the city
Nine partners are leaving following a disagreement over the future strategy of the firm. All nine partners came from the Cologne office of the now defunct German firm Gaedertz, which merged with Norton Rose last February. A date for the moves is yet to be agreed, but the partners plan to set up their own firm. The departing partners are insurance and litigation partner Wilfried Rüffer, property and construction partners Jürgen Lauer, Ulrich Leo, Walter Klein and Andreas Fink, intellectual property and IT partners Michael Loschelder, Thomas Schulte-Beckhausen and Thilo Klingbeil, and employment partner Det-lef Grimm. Norton Rose managing partner Roger Birkby said that the moves are an inevitable parting of ways. "They want to do something different," he said. "They're working along traditional German lines and want less delegation to associates, more personal interaction with the client and are less interested in moving the quality of clients upwards. They are not contributing to taking the German practice forward."
"They're less interested in moving the quality of clients upwards. They are not contributing to taking the German practice forward" Roger Birkby, Norton Rose
Fink said that the parting is amicable and that the partners are leaving because they want to be part of a national rather than an international firm. "We think it is best for our clients if we leave," he said. "The style of work we do is different and we want to be able to charge lower rates," he said. The departure of the property and construction partners is most significant because it will leave Norton Rose's Cologne office with negligible capability in that area. Birkby said that the firm intends to recruit quickly. "These [property] partners have not connected with [our strategy] and we have been disappointed. We want people with a focus on property finance and the corporate side of property who can advise on major fund work, large-scale project development and cross-border investment," he said. There are now 24 partners in Germany and Birkby said that he does not expect any further departures. Both the Frankfurt and Munich office have grown in the past few months and significant hires include Erich Michel, who joined from White & Case Feddersen, and Frank Herring, who joined from Linklaters Oppenhoff & Rädler.