Oppenhoff & Radler votes for radical shake-up of management structure

Oppenhoff & Radler, Linklaters & Alliance's partner in Germany, is to undergo a radical management shake-up and select its first ever managing partner.

The Cologne-based firm last week voted to appoint a managing partner, along with a new board and new system of administration.

The move will bring its management structure in line with that of its UK partner.

The managing partner will be chosen at a board meeting in four weeks and will come from among the firm's 115 partners.

Oppenhoffs currently works under the “gischaeftsfuehrungsausschuss” system, with five partners sharing management duties.

Internal communications manager Marcus Brans says: “There's no name, no concrete planning yet. But someone will be [appointed] from Oppenhoff & Radler.”

The new managing partner will implement decisions made by a restructured board, on which he or she will be joined by speaker Michael Oppenhoff and the heads of departments, which are yet to be formed.

“At the moment we have 11 [departments] but it's certainly not clear how many we will have,” says Brans.

The firm will also move from regional administrations to being organised centrally from one of its five offices – in Cologne, Berlin, Munich, Leipzig and Frankfurt. Brans says it still has to decide which office will be used.

Oppenhoffs says that the “extensive structural changes” have been made to enhance the firm's market focus and promote integration with Linklaters & Alliance.

“Within just six months of the formation of Linklaters & Alliance, we are serving an unexpectedly large number of clients jointly with other Linklaters & Alliance firms.

“This fact, together with better than expected financial results in the period, demonstrates the successful implementation of Oppenhoffs' international strategy.”

Terence Kyle says the integration of the firms is proceeding more quickly than expected. Discussions about profit-sharing and the distribution of power, which began six months ago when the alliance was first agreed, are continuing apace.

“We want to be sharing profits as soon as practicable, or in any event, by 2001. But we certainly haven't set aside the next six months, or set time-frame, to decide that.”

Linklaters & Alliance's structure

Linklaters & Alliance has an over-arching management structure, with chief executive officer Terence Kyle and secretary general Marc Martel.

There is an international board with representatives from each of the five firms which make up the alliance and a decision-making executive committee, also from each of the firms.

This is how the individual members shape up:

Linklaters (UK): 240 partners. Linklaters has a typical modern UK structure, with both a managing partner and a senior partner. It is this structure that Oppenhoffs is seeking to replicate.

Oppenhoff & Radler (Germany): 115 partners. Previously five head partners who shared management duties between them, each being responsible for an area, such as personnel or public relations. Next month it will move to having a managing partner who answers to a streamlined board.

Lagerlof & Leman (Sweden): 43 partners. The Swedes have a similar structure, with a managing partner reporting to a seven-member management board made up entirely of partners.

De Bandt van Hecke & Lagae (Belgium): 40 partners. It has a four-person rotating management committee, made up of partners who share management duties while continuing to practise law. More flexible, less streamlined. The firm has no intention of changing its structure.

De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek (The Netherlands): 88 partners. Has a management committee of three lawyers, one of whom is chairman, and two non-lawyers – the firm's personnel manager and its finance manager. Having only recently moved from a finance partner to a finance manager, there are no plans for further reform, although long-time partner Louis van Lennep says a managing partner may be “a natural move”.