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Linklaters & Alliance's member firm Oppenhoff & Radler is smarting after being hit by two high level defections to Shearman & Sterling - including a member of its merger taskforce.
Rolf Koerfer, a partner in the M&A group and former member of the merger taskforce, and Harald Selzer, a junior partner in the same department, intend to leave the firm's Cologne office to join Shearman's Dusseldorf office at the end of this month.
Koerfer, who resigned from his position in December, says: "The strategic development of the firm is not what I would have liked.
"The Linklaters approach is not right for the German market. I think you have to put the emphasis on the German practice and I don't think the German market can service its clients in the UK way."
A spokesman at Oppenhoffs confirms that a replacement for Koerfer has already been found in the form of complex banking litigation partner Klaus Saffenreuther.
He will join the existing member of the merger taskforce, corporate partner Michael Lappe.
A spokesman at Oppenhoffs says the firm will now restructure the M&A department, which specialises in the insurance sector. At present the practice has two partners and three lawyers.
He says: "Of course we don't think this is a positive development. But it is one of the clear signals to continue development of a full scale merger."
Selzer says: "My own view of how the merger will happen is that Linklaters approach on how to do a merger may be right for Oppenhoffs but it is not right for me."
One source says: "I think this will be a big loss for Oppenhoffs. Koerfer is one of its high billers and rainmakers. He is one of its M&A stars."
Georg Thoma, European managing partner at Shearmans, says that he initially approached Koerfer in September.
Thoma says: "He liked our strategy, the fact that we have an international practice but with an emphasis on what he values in Germany."
Terence Kyle, chief executive at Linklaters, was unavailable for comment.