Having spearheaded Goodwin Procter’s London launch four years ago, City chair David Evans is keen to recreate the firm’s success over in Germany.
For a start, there are many similarities between Goodwin Procter’s City opening and entry into the Frankfurt legal market.
The firm chose to hire Ashurst partners to launch both offices, with the latter’s former German managing partner Peter Junghänel joined in Frankfurt by real estate partner Marc Bohne, finance partner Stephan Kock and private equity partner Lars Jessen.
Evans worked with the quartet when he was still at Ashurst. Until he joined the US outfit in 2011 alongside Ashurst alumna Samantha Lake Coghlan he had spent his entire legal career at the firm. With the pair both specialising in real estate private equity and fund structuring, it became clear what areas Goodwin Procter should focus on in the City.
“We started with the real estate capital markets as it was an obvious initial area to transport from the US,” says Evans. “We came into the UK with a brand that was very strong in the US but not yet well-known in this market, so we had to think about the components you need to successfully enter a new geography.”
When Evans joined Goodwin in 2011, he says there was one other person, a few rooms and some phones. However, by focusing on the venture capitalists, growth capital and private equity companies, such as GreenOak, Cornerstone and Nordic Capital, the City branch is now made up of 30 lawyers.
The aim is very similar over in Germany, with the firm wanting to act for mainland European clients forming capital vehicles. Like London, the German marketplace is equally crowded, but Evans implies a launch in the country was inevitable following the growth experienced in London.
“We’re doing very well in the UK and there are lot more legs in Europe going forward, so we wanted to get everything in order,” explains Evans. “The reality is that we’re always looking to strategically expand. Germany was the right next step.”
Goodwin Procter, which has six US offices and one in Hong Kong, has enjoyed steady growth in the past few years. The firm revealed revenues had grown 4.4 per cent to $785.5m (£521.5m) earlier this year, with profits per partner also increasing by 7.4 per cent to $1.7m. This followed a similar turnover rise of 5 per cent between 2012/13 to $752.5m.
The firm is still primarily US-based, with just a small percentage of lawyers outside the country. For instance, there are over 160 partners working in Goodwin Procter’s Boston office, while London is made up of just 30 lawyers, including 11 partners. Yet Evans maintains it was never the intention for London to become a “clone” of the established US offices, as the same set-up doesn’t always work in different markets.
“Teams can be hired and then just thrown into melting pots without any thought as to how they will mesh,” he says. “You’ve got to build the brand and the best way to do that is by doing the deals and becoming more known.”
The German launch looks set to mirror the initial strategy in London therefore, as the firm intends to focus on real estate initially, layering on other corporate and private equity aspects once it is settled. But while the German saga is just beginning, London is in “growth mode” with new sectors being added on in the past year or so.
King & Wood Mallesons’ (KWM) co-head of corporate Richard Lever joined the firm to spearhead its City private equity practice in April and has since been joined by KWM colleague Simon Fulbrook to further grow the practice. Additionally, Evans says the City’s litigation capabilities are “constantly under review”, owing to the fact that around 35 to 40 per cent of the firm’s global revenues come from IP litigation, securities and white-collar work in the US.
But for now at least, the focus is on Europe and getting Germany off the ground, with the Ashurst quartet the only confirmed joiners. Evans admits there are challenges in coming into an already crowded marketplace, but says with “a good team, good network synergies and luck, then you have a pretty good chance over time”.