Punders partners to vote early over CC merger bid

Punder Volhard Weber & Axster, the third largest German firm, will bring forward the date of its annual partners meeting to next month so it can rush through its vote on the merger with Clifford Chance.

Clifford Chance partners, who voted over the weekend, were expected to approve the merger with Punders and US firm Rogers & Wells, making it the largest global law firm, with 2,700 lawyers.

Full details of the Clifford Chance vote will be reported today on The Lawyer's website – www.the-lawyer.co.uk.

The German firm's annual partner meeting has, according to sources, been brought forward from September to August to hasten the progress of the merger.

Last week, The Lawyer revealed that Clifford Chance had negotiated a surprise merger with Punders.

The rapidly-assembled merger – which was put together in about two months – took the legal world by surprise.

As The Lawyer went to press, Clifford Chance's senior management was said to be confident of partner approval from all three firms.

A source close to Clifford Chance says the mutual attraction between Punders and Rogers & Wells was key to Clifford Chance attracting each firm.

“Punders had initially favoured merging with a US firm to get access to US markets, and the German firm is attractive to Rogers & Wells because it gives them entry into Eastern European markets,” says the source.

It is expected that Punders partners will overwhelmingly support the vote. At a partner meeting in April, “almost 100 per cent” of partners, according to managing partner Peter Nagele, voted to look to expand globally through mergers.

This is a dramatic change in stance from its previous position, following the collapse of the Punder Group, that it preferred to grow organically.

Punders was the third German firm that Clifford Chance talked to with a view to merger. Initial talks with Boesebeck Droste broke off this year, then Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Lober was rejected after initial talks.