EY Law survives defections as Central European firms reaffirm commitment

The law firms in Ernst & Young’s (E&Y) Central European area have reaffirmed their commitment to EY Law Europe, despite a fresh round of departures from the network.

As first reported on www.thelawyer.com (18 July), at a meeting of E&Y’s Central European area earlier this month, ‘law’ was recognised as the fourth service line of the accountancy-tied practice in the region. The primary countries in this region are Germany, Switzerland, Hungary and the Netherlands. E&Y’s other service lines include audit and business advisory as well as transaction advisory.

Twenty lawyers out of the 100-strong EY Law CIS team that defected to DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary at the end of the month have pulled out of the move, deciding instead to stay with EY Law.

Meanwhile, E&Y’s law firms in both the Czech Republic and the Baltic states (Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania) are in ongoing discussions to split.

EY Law’s former UK member Tite & Lewis broke away from the network in May 2004 to relaunch itself as a referral partner. E&Y’s Polish and Austrian law firms have also broken away from the network to comply with the post-Enron regulatory clampdown.

Hans van Gijzen, formerly the managing partner of Holland Van Gijzen in the Netherlands, has been appointed to lead those law firms in the Central European area.

Although EY Law Europe still has the backing of a number of its tied law firms, it has suffered a number of key departures from its Continental Western European area. During the past two years, the area, which covers France, Spain, Italy and Greece, has lost partners to the likes of Simmons & Simmons and Baker & McKenzie.

Despite these problems, Pinsent Masons has been developing referral links with EY Law Europe since September 2004.

Klegal – where are they now

The firms that formed KLegal have all survived in some form since KPMG dissolved the network in February 2004.

UK-based McGrigors’ financial year-end is September, but the first half of its first full year as an independent firm was positive and bodes well. Across the Channel, Fidal retains its position as the largest French law firm, raking in revenues of €250m (£173.7m) in 2004. Germany’s Beiten Burkhardt recorded a turnover of €70m (£48.6m) in its first year of independence and recently expanded its Moscow operation.

Smaller components are also surviving, particularly Lontings & Partners in Belgium and nine-partner firm Faasen & Partners Advocaten, which has offices in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

KPMG has retained legal capability in the shape of its Swiss and Spanish law firm arms, but these do not practise under the KLegal brand.

Landwell – where are they now?

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) international legal ambitions suffered what many presumed would be a mortal blow in March 2004 when global head Gérard Nicolai stepped down. The accountancy firm’s legal network Landwell had already suffered a post-Sarbanes-Oxley Act exodus as partners decamped to other firms or split off to set up alone.

Despite the turmoil, Landwell still exists. Twenty firms are part of Landwell, but most have been suffering from partner departures and declines in turnover. The year prior to Nicolai’s departure saw the Dutch arm leave the network and merge with Van Doorne, while a chunk of Landwell France broke off to set up Taylor Wessing‘s Paris arm.

In March this year, Eversheds launched an alliance with Landwell’s former Polish branch Wierzbowski I Wspólnicy after the firm agreed a final separation from PwC.

Meanwhile, Nicolai, working with French boutique Carbonnier Lamaze Rasle & Associés, found himself elected to the Paris bar in December 2004.