A trio of partners in Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s German offices are to leave the firm to launch a boutique.

Environmental, planning and regulatory partner Wolf Spieth is exiting the firm, having led its Berlin office for a number of years. Spieth is one of 10 partners in Freshfields’ Berlin office.

He will be joined by regulatory and planning partner Herbert Posser, who is based in Düsseldorf, and Berlin-based partner Benedikt Wolfers.

Wolfers is co-leader of the firm’s environment product and regulatory group, and has recently been involved in Volkswagen’s emission test rigging case that broke in 2015.

The three partners will be accompanied by two fee-earners initially; counsel Burkard Wollenschläger and principal associate Niclas Hellermann.

They are to set up a boutique firm in Berlin and Düsseldorf when they leave the firm in May.

The move halves Freshfields’ environmental, regulatory and planning team in Germany from six to three partners. Two of those are based in Berlin; Marcel Kaufmann and Michael Ramb.

At its peak, Spieth’s regulatory and public law practice was one of the most profitable in Freshfields’ German operations, with a client base including a number of federal governments and Berlin companies such as Deutsche Bahn and Landesbank Berlin.

Freshfields’ German operations were the subject of a review in 2015/16, with the firm’s Cologne office being shut down in November 2015.

The offices were also set for a spate of natural retirements leading to a reduction in the firm’s partner headcount in the region.

The firm’s German operations are increasingly focusing on international work rather than local, with the spin-off set to offer services for national clients.