Swiss roles

Meyerlustenberger Lachenal union gives firm a presence in Zürich and Geneva

Back in 2010 the talk of the Swiss legal market was the high-profile split between the Geneva and Zürich offices of local firm Pestalozzi. Pestalozzi was formed through a merger in 2001, but never fully integrated financially, and the Geneva partners wanted to focus on their core practice areas in Francophone Switzerland.

Just 18 months on, the need for Germanic advice has driven those partners – practising since October 2010 as Lachenal & Le Fort – to merge with Zürich’s Meyerlustenberger. Meyerlustenberger Lachenal goes live today (2 April) and, with 30 partners and another 50 lawyers, is a significant player in Switzerland.

Swiss lawyers are fond of talking about the cultural split between Geneva and Zürich. Geneva is perceived as traditional and a little stuffy, while Zürich has a more entrepreneurial, modern feel. Lawyers work in different ways and the cantons have different laws.

But the reality is that no firm can survive without a relationship in the other city. The business undertaken in the two cantons is complementary, with Zurich picking up more institutional advice from banks while Geneva takes the lion’s share of private wealth, funds and arbitration work.

Lachenal & Le Fort had turned to Meyerlustenberger soon after breaking away from Pestalozzi, while Meyerlustenberger had a small associated office in Geneva that has also come on board. The merger gives both firms a presence in the other city and crucially, given Lachenal’s history, is designed to be integrated from day one.