Freshfields fails to win majority Bruckhaus vote

Freshfields is blaming poor communication between partners at Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Laber for its failure to approve the merger of the firms, say insider sources.

In a preliminary partnership vote on the weekend of 15 April, only two thirds of the largest domestic legal practice in Germany's partners elected for merger with Freshfields, as revealed on The Lawyer's website

This percentage fell short of the majority needed by the firm's partnership agreement to ratify a merger. The majority needed to rubber stamp it has been kept a secret, but German sources say is almost 100 per cent.

A senior source at Freshfields put the lack of enthusiasm of one third of the partners down to a lack of communication on the benefits of the deal to the partnership.

“It was understandable and to some extent expected. They were quite slow in pace in terms of explaining it to partners and that is bloody difficult for a firm that does not have full-time management.”

Burkhard Bastuck, a partner at Bruckhaus claims there is no pressure on Bruckhaus to conclusively decide now whether to merge.

But another source in the market says Bruckhaus is in “disarray” after the meeting.

He says: “Now they [Bruckhaus' management] are saying that if people do not want to play ball [and merge with Freshfields] then they have an option to leave.”

Freshfields also says Bruckhaus must take the merger route despite the result of the last vote.

A senior partner at the firm says: “I want that deal and I doubt now whether you can put the liquid back in the bottle. Two thirds of them have said they want it, so going back to the status quo is not really an option.”

Bastuck says that Bruckhaus has not scheduled another meeting to talk about the merger.

A partner at a rival German firm suggests that Freshfields may now start a shopping spree for Bruckhaus partners to expand organically.

But a Freshfields partner says: “When we want to do a bit of rape and pillage we do, like we did in Holland. If we take [Bruckhaus] we are taking the whole thing.”