Osborne Clarke dumps German merger for mass lateral hiring

Osborne Clarke has abandoned plans to merge with its German alliance firm Graf von Westphalen Fritze & Modest as it woos partners from the German firm’s Cologne office.

In a turnaround in strategy, Osborne Clarke has decided to grow organically, with sources stating that a return to the negotiating table is highly unlikely.

The firm will build on its Frankfurt office, which took on three partners from Coudert Schürmann at the beginning of the month (The Lawyer, 5 March).

It is believed that Osborne Clarke has made offers to six corporate partners from Graf von Westphalen’s Cologne office, including Rudolf Hübner-Weingarten, Stefan Rizor and Ralf Schlösser.

All six partners are understood to be considering the offer, but as yet, none have yet accepted.

Most of Osborne Clarke’s Anglo-German work is done out of Graf von Westphalen’s Cologne office and it has a number of IT and technology clients in the area.

Osborne Clarke’s original intention was to integrate its Frankfurt office into Graf von Westphalen. But division within the German firm’s Cologne office over its merger with regional firm Freiburg Bappert Witz & Selbherr has delayed integration with Osborne Clarke.

The negotiations with Bappert are being led by the Hamburg office, so the dispute in Cologne is unlikely to prove detrimental. But the future of the Cologne office may well hinge on Osborne Clarke’s offer. It seems unlikely that the office, which is already plagued by dissent, could survive six partner defections.