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Top billers leave for Latham & Watkins Frankfurt; fears that firm will split to accommodate merger
German firm Wessing's merger with the UK's Taylor Joynson Garrett (TJG) is facing another stumbling block as five high-profile Frankfurt partners jump ship to US firm Latham & Watkins. The move follows the news that a group of labour law partners in Frankfurt are opposed to the merger and have threatened to break away if Wessing decides to proceed (The Lawyer, 1 April). The latest news sees the departures of corporate partners Claus Gerber, Marcus Herrmann and Ulrich Wuermeling, banking partner Philipp von Randow and litigation partner Volker Schaefer. All five will be based in Frankfurt where they will be the first full-time partners. Latham's managing partner in Germany Christoph von Teichman divides his time between Frankfurt and Hamburg. Von Teichman told The Lawyer that the emphasis in Frankfurt will be on M&A and corporate finance. He expects that other practice areas will be added in the future. "A strong Frankfurt presence is a vital part of our plans to expand in Europe," he said. "With the recent reforms in German tax and takeover laws, our new lawyers bring the right combination of corporate, capital markets and banking expertise to our Frankfurt office. We now have the critical mass necessary to attract major transactions." The five Wessing partners have an impressive client list, including a major German investment bank and a number of international corporates, particularly in the oil and gas sector. Under their current contract they are obliged to stay at Wessing until the end of the year, but von Teichman expects that they will leave sooner. The departures will hit Wessing's Frankfurt office hard as it is understood that the five partners are among the top billers. Last year Wessing's Düsseldorf office suffered the loss of a number of key lawyers. In June, M&A partner Alexander Schroder-Frerkes and energy partner Jan Byok followed the firm's former chairman Wolfgang von Meibom to Andersen Legal. Then in October, another high-profile team led by Alexander Loos, departed for Lovells. It now seems questionable whether TJG will manage to secure a merger with the whole firm and it is becoming more likely that it will target only one or two offices.