CMS integration derailed

The full merger of Cameron McKenna’s CMS alliance is likely to take twice as long as originally predicted, its managing director has admitted.

Peter van Dalen told The Lawyer that the 11-month delay in filling his post has lost valuable time for the alliance.

CMS was launched in April 1999 with the promise of full economic integration within four years. But corporate strategist Van Dalen, who took up the post on 1 January, says: “The groundwork for a partnership could be laid within three years. Financial integration is still the plan, but the details may be complex and even controversial.”

He plans to rethink CMS’ strategic approach, drawing on the examples of more successful firms such as Linklaters & Alliance and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, as well as the big five accountancy firms.

Van Dalen’s predecessor Peter Lonnquist had been in the job for less than a year before his Swedish firm Tisell Advokatfirma AB voted to merge with Ernst & Young’s legal arm. Van Dalen says: “Things have to be reassessed. You can only move forward if there’s consensus among the team players. There is on the executive committee about our goal, but that’s only the vision. I must reassess whether that implementation scheme can still be maintained. We must make sure that we’ve got a shared strategy so that there’s a basis for pushing forward.”

He says of the delay in filling his post: “It’s had an effect. A number of things have been delayed.” While the CMS executive committee continued to meet, Van Dalen says little could come of their talks due to the lack of a managing director. He also points to progress in setting up practice groups across member firms.

Originally six-strong, CMS has had a troubled start. Its former Danish member Schluter & Hald opted for observer status after two mergers to create Dragsted Schluter Aros. It appears undecided on whether to join. Talks with Studio Legale Tonucci in Italy also failed, but it did recruit a Swiss member.

Van Dalen says: “If people aren’t fully committed, we’ll find another opportunity.” He adds that talks continue with potential new members. “The speed depends on the opportunities and resources available. The aim remains to become a truly European law firm.”