MoFo ist ein Berliner

Germany has been a key European target for many firms over the years. Since Freshfields moved in via its groundbreaking merger in 2000 with Deringer Tessin Herrmann & Sedemund and Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Löber, the vast majority of UK and US firms have followed.

Germany has been a key European target for many firms over the years. Since Freshfields moved in via its groundbreaking merger in 2000 with Deringer Tessin Herrmann & Sedemund and Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Löber, the vast majority of UK and US firms have followed.

The latest, and doing so with a bit of a splash, is Morrison & Foerster (MoFo). The US firm has taken a nine-partner team from Hogan Lovells to open in Berlin – forcing the latter to close its doors in the German capital.

While being far from alone to launch a German office in recent times, MoFo is taking a slightly different route to most by plumping for Berlin. Most other firms have chosen Frankfurt, Germany’s financial centre, as the starting point – like Herbert Smith Freehills – or gone into the country’s industrial heartland in Dusseldorf or Munich. Latham & Watkinsswoop on Shearman & Sterling, causing the latter to slim down in Germany earlier this year, is a prime example.

Whether Berlin is the right way in is debatable. It might give MoFo access to Germany’s political elite, like newly re-elected chancellor Angela Merkel, but most of the legal work is done elsewhere. Though it will surely rue the loss of such a large team, Hogan Lovells will take comfort in the fact that it has lost 25 per cent of its German workforce, but only 10 per cent of revenue.

But any foothold in the strongest economy in Europe is a good thing, and MoFo will now be able to proclaim, as did JFK all those years ago, “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

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