Wessing blames Von Meibom for tensions

Troubled German law firm Wessing has blamed its current strife on departing former chief executive Wolfgang von Meibom.

A fiercely critical statement was issued following the announcement that von Meibom will join Andersen Legal’s German arm Andersen Luther in Düsseldorf as chief executive.

Senior intellectual property (IP) partner Klaus-Jürgen Michaeli and fellow IP partner Maximiliane Stöckel also intend to depart for Andersen Luther.

But according to Wessing, the departures stop there. It claims other partners in the IP department are not expected to follow. Furthermore, the statement holds von Meibom responsible for initiating talks between Andersen Luther and Wessing’s Düsseldorf office.

“With the [von Meibom] departure, all the discussions about the future of the firm have finally been ended,” it says. “Already, partners have worked out a strategic plan for international development and this will be implemented by the new executive committee.”

However, the evidence is to the contrary. Wessing is one of the last leading independent law firms in Germany, and despite its association with a number of firms, including Andersen Legal, Bird & Bird, Eversheds, Nabarro Nathanson and Theodore Goddard, it has yet to secure a merger.

Sources close to the firm claim that the dissention is between nationally and internationally-minded partners.

Relations within the firm hit rock bottom when von Meibom stepped down as chairman in March, following accusations that his interests no longer represented those of the firm. Management of the firm was taken over by a four-partner committee and a consultancy was brought in to develop a unified strategy.

The trouble, though, looks set to continue. It is unlikely that Wessing can avoid further division and it is understood that a number of other partners in the Düsseldorf office are also talking to Andersen Luther.

Von Meibom will replace Andersen Luther’s current managing partner Stefan Kraus, who will become chief operating officer.

A date for the move is yet to be confirmed. Wessing refused to comment further and von Weibom declined to comment.