Loeffs sheds advocacy partners in A&O link-up

Dutch-Belgian law firm Loeff Claeys Verbeke is understood to be shedding up to a third of its partners to prepare for its merger with Allen & Overy.

Dutch sources say Loeffs plans to dump its advocacy department to become a pure corporate firm.

Loeffs partners specialising in court hearings, like barristers in the UK, are understood to be in talks with Trenite Van Doorne. Trenite is a top five Dutch firm which does advocacy work. But a Trenite spokeswoman denies the rumour.

Once the “barristers” have split from the firm, the bulk of Loeffs will be free to merge fully with A&O, a move the remaining corporate and commercial partners are backing.

But sources say other Loeffs partners and associates are disappointed with the drive to become a fully corporate firm and have flooded the market with their CVs.

Last year, Loeffs went through some rough patches. Its failed merger with Dutch firm Buruma Maris was followed by the departure of allied French firm Gide Loyrette Nouel

But Loeffs' UK ally A&O has remained close throughout. An A&O spokesman says: “We have an association which goes back round about 10 years and are continuing to explore ways of working more closely with them.

“The Netherlands as an economy is quite important. And there is a lot of international cross-border activity emanating from there.”

Freshfields is the most recent UK law firm to open in the country, poaching a number of top partners from Stibbe Simont Monahan Duhot. But has been quiet since.

Experts say Dutch firms have been looking for a UK merger partner to boost their position in the market.

Top three Dutch firms Stibbe Simont and Nauta Dutilh remain free. However Nauta Dutilh has a good relationship with Ashurst Morris Crisp, and its talks with accountancy firm KPMG are now reportedly off.

Stiff competition from accounting firms has been cited as a reason for the scramble for alliances. While domestic mergers have characterised the market for more than a year, international link-ups remain an attractive option for Dutch firms.