Weil makes good in resurgent German market with 41 per cent turnover hike

The German office of US firm Weil Gotshal & Manges led the way in Germany last year after it posted a mammoth 41.2 per cent increase in turnover to €48m (£33m).

The figures are testament to the firm’s aggressive expansion policy in Germany. In 2004 it doubled headcount and opened an office in Munich, which is already understood to be profitable. Weil can also boast the second-largest revenue per equity partner (RPE) in Germany at €5.3m (£3.6m) – a rise of more than 40 per cent on the previous year.

According to the latest figures published by Juve Rechtsmarkt magazine, the UK and US firms are setting the pace.

Expansionist US firm Latham & Watkins scored a turnover increase of 23.5 per cent to €43.1m (£29.6m) thanks to a series of lateral hires and its burgeoning high-yield practice.

Anglo-German IT/IP specialists Taylor Wessing spent 2004 ramping up in German through new hires, especially in Frankfurt and Düsseldorf. The firm saw turnover jump by almost 24 per cent last year to €95.4m (£65.5m), with RPE scoring a similar increase to €1.4m (£960,000).

Last year proved one of the most successful for German law firms as deal flow finally picked up following years of lacklustre activity. The increased transaction activity was especially visible in the private equity arena, which took off last year and continues to provide a large source of income for German lawyers in 2005. Turnover is up at most of Germany’s top firms. A look at the top 25 firms gives a combined turnover increase of 9.5 per cent to €85.8m (£58.9m), while the average RPE has risen 11.95 per cent to more than €2m (£1.4m).

The figures for 2004 place three of the UK magic circle firms at the top of the chart, with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Clifford Chance and Linklaters Oppenhoff & Rädler claiming the first three places respectively.

Both Freshfields and Linklaters saw turnover rises to €293m (£201.1m) and €152.7m (£104.8m) respectively. Linklaters also saw its RPE jump by more than 18 per cent to €2.1m (£1.4m).

Freshfields’ RPE in Germany rose 4.6 per cent to €1.8m (£1.2m). Clifford Chance’s rose just 3.3 per cent to €2.8m (£1.9m). Clifford Chance finally divested itself of its loss-making Berlin office at the end of 2004, and this will have contributed to a 1.9 per cent fall in turnover to €157m (£107.8m).

The first German firm to make an appearance in the table is Hengeler Mueller in fourth place, with turnover up 3.5 per cent to €152.1m (£104.4m) and RPE up to €2.1m (£1.4m). Just two other German firms make it into the top 10. CMS Hasche Sigle, part of the CMS net-work, saw turnover rise 5 per cent to €142.2m (£97.6m), while Herbert Smith alliance partner Gleiss Lutz enjoyed a 14.3 per cent turnover rise to €96.7m (£66.4m).

Other indigenous German firms have found themselves posting large turnover and RPE increases. Nuremberg-headquartered Rödl & Partner saw a turnover rise of 11.2 per cent to €53.3m (£36.6m), and topped the RPE table for the top 40 firms in Germany despite its RPE falling by 2.73 per cent to €6.7m (£4.6m). Munich firm Nörr Stiefen-hofer Lutz boosted its turnover by 16.6 per cent to €76.5m (£52.5m) and Görg shrugged off its split from the DLA network to post a 16.2 per cent hike in turnover to €33.7m (£23.1m).

Not all firms have capitalised on the German recovery in 2004. Allen & Overy is placed way below the rest of the UK magic circle at 18, with one of the table’s biggest drops in turnover – down 5.8 per cent to €51.9m (£35.6m). Only Haarmann Hemmelrath fared worse, with turnover falling 11.5 per cent to €69m (£47.4m) and RPE falling to €1.4m (£960,000).

Click here to view table: ‘The Juve 40, 2004’