US firm Weil Gotshal & Manges is expanding into Europe.
The firm is talking to possible merger partners and lateral hires in Germany and France, and is also considering opening in Italy and Spain.
Managing partner Maurice Allen says the firm wants to do something “big and brave” in Europe. He says discussions should be completed in three to six months' time, when he hopes to announce “Frankfurt as a minimum”.
Akiko Mikumo, head of US practice at Weil Gotshal's London office, says: “We have been presented with several proposals by various people. Some have proposed alliances and some have proposed mergers.”
Mikumo says the firm will provide local and US law capability in each jurisdiction, in a similar way to the London office. Weil Gotshal is considering merger partners, but may look for “another Maurice Allen or Mike Francies [joint heads in London ]” to set up an office from scratch and attract lawyers from local firms.
The firm has been approached by potential merger partners who prefer Weil Gotshal to UK suitors because it offers access to the US markets, she adds.
The news will come as a surprise, following persistent reports of objections among Weil Gotshal's New York partners about the London office's progress. However, Mikumo says: “That was the initial reaction [to the London office] because the idea was new to some people in New York.
“But they have now been internationalised and the momentum is coming from New York rather than from London.”
See news analysis page 10-11