National law firm Hammond Suddards Edge has voted to take on a German team to set up offices in Berlin and Munich. It also approved a merger with Paris firm Hausmann & Associés (as revealed The Lawyer, 12 February).
As revealed on The Lawyer's website (www.thelawyer.co.uk), five partners from German firm Knauthe Paul Schmitt will join Hammonds. Hebert Kunz will head the Munich office while partners Frank Walter-von Gierke, Uwe Ritter, Kai Mertens and Martin Fleckenstein will set up in Berlin.
They will open in April and will concentrate on corporate, banking, intellectual property (IP), construction and property.
Although there is no financial link, Hammonds has known Knauthe for a number of years because both firms were members of the Commercial Law Affiliates (CLA). Hammonds recently pulled out of CLA after a disagreement over the speed of integration.
Hammonds senior partner John Heller says he would also like the firm to have a presence in Frankfurt. “First we need to attract and retain clients and generate income in Berlin and Munich,” he says.
Heller denies that the two offices will be niche technology operations. Although Knauthe's Munich office is currently an IP practice, Heller says that the new Hammonds office will also handle private equity work.
Knauthe's clients are mainly corporate and include a number of banks and private equity houses.
Walter von Gierke, who will be the senior partner in Germany, says that the partners decided to leave Knauthe so that they could mirror the developments of their clients. “Our clients' businesses have to consolidate and capitalise on the globalisation of their markets, and we're doing the same,” he says. “It also means we can invest more in IT, recruitment and training.”
The merger agreement with Hausmann, which will take effect from the beginning of May, will give Hammonds a French capability in M&A, private equity, commercial agreements, IP and commercial dispute resolution. The five-partner firm claims to offer a full service practice, but its clients are predominantly industry and public sector.
Hausmann corporate finance partner Christopher Wilde says that national law firms in France are becoming a thing of the past. “Although there's still a place in the French market for small firms like ours, we decided to merge because our clients are looking for firms that can offer a one-stop shop,” he says. “We're pleased to be acquiring offices in London and Germany.”
Hammonds' only other European presence is in Brussels but it is restricted to EU law.
see interview, page 17