‘ abandoned Cologne operation will relaunch independently as Oppenhoff & Partner.

The new firm will have 11 partners and 41 fee-earners and will focus on commercial, corporate and tax work. It will be led by Michael Oppenhoff, son of the late Walter Oppenhoff, who gave the firm its name, and Michael Abels. Respected corporate partner Georg Maier-Reimer will also join, along with eight others.

Oppenhoff said: “We’re all very much looking forward to practising in a more personal environment, offering our employees a new, promising perspective and shaking off some of the pressures of a global firm.”

Maier-Reimer said the firm hopes to offer a tailored service to mid-size enterprises, an especially important sector of the German economy, which a firm such as Linklaters is less able to offer.

Linklaters partner Michael Lappe said: “We wish Oppenhoff & Partner all the best and look forward to a continued amicable relationship with them.”

Linklaters announced in September 2007 that it would dismantle its historic Cologne outfit and move to Düsseldorf. Eleven Linklaters partners had not agreed to the move and were expected to leave the firm, which Linklaters claimed was due to “strategic differences”. Most of these will set up Oppenhoff & Partner on 1 January 2008.

Four loyal Cologne partners have already set up the new Linklaters office in Düsseldorf under the leadership of ex-Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer corporate rainmakers Ralph Wollburg and Achim Kirchfeld.

A further six Linklaters Cologne partners are to follow by the end of the year. The Düsseldorf office expects to house around 50 fee-earners.

Freshfields has reacted to the loss of their two heavyweights by promoting Düsseldorf corporate senior associate Stephan Waldhausen to the partnership, amid fears that Waldhausen would follow his former team leaders to Linklaters.