CLA-Europe's single brand forces Dutch firm to leave

DUTCH firm Kennedy Van der Laan has pulled out of the Commercial Law Affiliates (CLA) Europe Alliance less than two months after its formation, following the launch of the group's single-branding strategy.

The alliance was launched on 19 July by 15 firms, including Hammond Suddards Edge in the UK. As an IT/IP specialist, Kennedys, which is based in Amsterdam, counts Microsoft and KLM among its clients. The 25-partner firm signed up to the group's protocol, which includes the marketing of jointly developed services, but reached a unanimous decision to pull out of CLA-Europe and the larger network on 8 September.

Kennedys' IT partner Coen Drion, who is a member of the firm's management board, says: “CLA-Europe has decided to adopt a strategy which involves single branding, not just for specific jointly developed products or services, but for basically all presentation materials, including firm stationery. This simply goes further than we are prepared to go.

“As a relatively young and very fast-growing firm, we value our independence and free culture deeply. We have a no-merger policy and a strong brand name in our markets.”

The Netherlands was the only country to have more than one CLA-Europe member, the other being Rotterdam-based shipping law firm Koster & Claassen. As most of the larger Dutch practices line up with UK firms, CLA has few other options in The Netherlands.

Both Drion and CLA-Europe's managing director Michael Faulkner say the firms are likely to continue working together.

Drion says his firm was always open with CLA members about its position. “We'll certainly continue to work with CLA firms, but we think we're better off maintaining our independence and culture,” he says.

Kennedys' departure follows speculation that Hammonds supports a merger of the alliance in the future.

Chris Jones, joint managing partner at Hammonds, says: “We're not ruling out a merger in the long term, but at present discussions are not about a merger. They're more about integration.”