Uria & Menendez looks to build Franco-German link in Brussels

Leading Spanish firm Uria & Menendez is negotiating with the Brussels offices of French firm Gide Loyrette Nouel and Austro-German firm Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Laber to combine their EU law practices in the city.

Rodrigo Uria, senior partner, said initial soundings from Gide and Bruckhaus Westrick were positive although the new arrangement would not involve cost sharing.

Gide's EU law practice already works closely with Dutch-Belgium firm Loeff Claeys Verbeke, but Loeff Claeys partner Sietze Hepkema said the firm had not yet decided whether to also link up with Bruckhaus Westrick and Uria & Menendez.

Uria denied reports that his firm planned to set up a continental alliance with Gide and Bruckhaus Westrick. He said that after abandoning Linklaters & Alliance – which he described as a “powerful thing” – the firm had no intention of setting up another in its place.

Burkhard Bastuck, a partner at Bruckhaus Westrick, said: “There is no new project on the agenda – we are not putting a new continental alliance together.”

Bastuck said his firm had worked with Gide as its “preferred” French firm for over 15 years. “Whenever we have a French and German transaction, we have a firm that we respect and have individual lawyers that we know and can recommend,” he said.

He added: “We do not have the same close relationship with Uria as we do with Gide – Spain as a jurisdiction is not a top priority for us at this time.”

Gide is understood to have opened offices in Bucharest, Romania and plans to open in Baku, Azerbaijan, and London in the next few months.

But Bastuck said Bruckhaus Westrick had no plans to follow the Paris firm into London and will continue to operate a “best friends” policy with a number of City firms.

He said: “Common law capability is a concern for us, but we haven't decided how exactly we are going to do that.”

He added that the firm had no formal association with US firm Shearman & Sterling. He described Shearmans as a “strong competitor in Germany”.

Bruckhaus is currently advising Deutsche Bank on the tax aspects of its proposed merger with Bankers Trust.