Haarmann speaks out on German lockstep row

Wilhelm Haarmann was prepared for his fate last week. The joint founder of Haarmann Hemmelrath turned up to the partner meeting with a resignation letter ready to be signed.

“I’d prepared my statement of resignation, but I didn’t go there to do that,” Haarmann told The Lawyer.

As first revealed on www.thelawyer.com (25 July), Haarmann terminated his partnership as of 30 June 2006 at a partner meeting held over the weekend of 23-24 July.

Haarmann said the decision was not down to one big event, but to a series of smaller events over a longer period of time.

“For the past two to three years I’ve been pretty unhappy with the some of the decisions the firm has made,” he explained.

Sources at Haarmann Hemmelrath claim that Haarmann quit over the allocation of lockstep points.

Last year the firm changed its ‘eat what you kill’ style of remuneration into a lockstep system following a vote by partners.

Points at the top of the lockstep are 32, but it is understood that Haarmann was on 35. The allocation commission put forward a motion to reduce Haarman’s points to 30, which was passed by the partners.

Haarmann declined to comment on the details, but said that he was in favour of the lockstep system and the points reallocation, but not of the “methodology” used by the firm.

Haarmann set up the firm in 1987 with Alexander Hemmelrath in Munich. Over the past few years the firm has undergone a rapid expansion and now has 22 offices in 13 countries. Haarmann has overseen much of the expansion and claims that he feels betrayed by the storm of criticism that has come his way.

“In 2001-02, when I drove forward the expansion, I was criticised. Now those same people are pleased that offices like London and Moscow are profitable,” he said.

Haarmann is due to leave the firm in a year’s time, but he is not sure if the firm will ask him to leave before then. Whatever the details of his departure, Haarmann says he has no plans to retire.

In a statement responding to the departure, Jeff Thinnes, a member of the management board of Haarmann Hemmelrath, said: “We of course regret the resignation of Wilhelm Haarmann, but we also understand and accept his personal decision.”

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