Taylor Wessing, Ince lawyers chart new course to Hamburg shipping boutique

A group of eight lawyers, four each from Taylor Wessing and Ince & Co’s Hamburg offices, have split off to establish a shipping law boutique in the German city.

Fleet Hamburg consists of the entirety of Taylor Wessing’s transport and logistics team in Hamburg, with the addition of three shipping litigators and an insolvency specialist from Ince.

The Taylor Wessing team comprises partners Christoph Hasche, Klaus Kostka and Eva Bodenbach, together with senior associate Arthur Steinmann. Ince partner Axel Salander, who helped found the firm’s Hamburg office, is joined by Dharshini Bandara and Philipp Drömann as well as restructuring lawyer Ann-Kathrin Burchard.

Fleet Hamburg will be led by co-managing partners Hasche and Bandara. The firm will advise on all aspects of shipping law, with a focus on merchant ­shipping.

Both Bandara and Salander are English-qualified, Bandara as a barrister and Salander as a solicitor. Hasche said their English law expertise was “very interesting” and would enable Fleet Hamburg to act for international shipping clients on court cases in London at more competitive rates than those charged by UK shipping specialists.
A further English-­qualified partner is expected to join the firm in the new year.

As Fleet Hamburg will focus exclusively on shipping law, it is maintaining a best friends relationship with Taylor Wessing to refer other matters to the UK firm. ­Taylor Wessing will continue advising on yacht building, marine shipbuilding and ­offshore shipping issues.

Hasche said the team felt a more independent firm would suit the practice area better than being part of a full-service team.

“We feel that under a new structure we can be even more successful than we are now,” he told The Lawyer. “If you do merchant ­shipping law in contrast to mergers and acquisitions for big shipping lines, you have a different fee structure than in other fields. We at Taylor Wessing always felt that it was hardly possible to increase our fees as much as the corporate lawyers do.”

Bandara said the team from Ince wanted to concentrate more on shipping litigation, although the UK firm will also advise on ­contentious marine work from Hamburg.
“Ince will still do the same sort of work that we’ll do,” she added. “You can’t rule out the possibility that we’ll be on different sides of a case.”

For the time being Fleet Hamburg will have seven partners, with Drömann ­initially joining as senior associate. Hasche said recruitment of more ­associates would depend on how much work the firm receives.

Hamburg has been the location for a number of new entrants this year, although there have been no boutiques launched since August 2010, when ­Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer property partner Erwin von Bressendorf led the establishment of Trûon Rechtsanwälte.

International firms to have entered Hamburg this year include Bird & Bird, Eversheds and Norton Rose, while German insolvency boutique Schultze & Braun also launched a Hamburg office.

Taylor Wessing has lost a number of partners in the UK in recent weeks, although it has hired ­several in Germany this year, including tax partner Ralf Werz from Görg Rechtsanwälte last week.