SJ Berwin is seeking to link its 30-lawyer private equity practice to eight-partner Frankfurt firm Knopf Tulloch & Partner under a single name, charging a single fee to clients.
However, Knopf Tulloch, a spin-off from Arthur Andersen in 1990, is a multidisciplinary practice, and Law Society rules forbid law firms from fee-sharing with MDPs.
Christopher Bramall, of the Law Society's ethics committee, would not comment on specific cases but added that, although no one had applied for one before, he thought it possible a waiver could be granted to allow for the sharing of fees.
David Harrel, senior partner of SJ Berwin, said he plans to send partners to Frankfurt soon to work in Knopf Tulloch's office. A full merger is not on the cards, since profit-sharing with MDPs is currently outlawed by the Law Society – as is setting up foreign partnerships with them.
Harrel said the firms were in talks with the Law Society to see how the internal structure of the practice could be organised, but he emphasised he thought it was “only a matter of time before there is greater relaxation in this area”.
Knopf Tulloch partner Anthony Tulloch said that his firm is already offering legal, tax and accountancy services, and intends to grow into a full service corporate law practice.
It also has plans “to expand into other countries” – with France, the Netherlands and Italy the priorities.