A partnership meeting at Linklaters & Alliance’s Dutch ally De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek last week made no progress towards renewing formal merger talks with the magic circle firm.
Partners did, though, agree to reduce De Brauw’s Rotterdam and Hague bases to representative offices in order to consolidate in Amsterdam. The decision is a major step for the Netherlands’ largest and most prestigious firm.
Managing partner Jaap de Keijzer said that the decision was not aimed at facilitating a merger with Linklaters. Talks came to a dead end in April over the failure of the 90-partner Dutch firm to restructure by cutting out areas considered by Linklaters to be non-core (The Lawyer, 30 April).
De Kaijzer said: “This is entirely separate from our international strategy. Whether we do something with Linklaters or not, this will happen no matter what.
“Putting people together in one location will make us much more efficient. It makes sound business sense”
Jaap De Keijzer, De Brauw
“We’ll continue to work closely together [with Linklaters]. We’re in contact quite often, but at the moment there’s no urge to move discussions on one way or the other. That may change at some point, but at this time we don’t feel the need to change anything.”
The relocation plans will see some 15 partners in M&A, tax and real estate move from Rotterdam to Amsterdam. De Brauw will maintain client meeting rooms and temporary work stations in Rotterdam as well as some administration and IT functions. Between five and 10 partners are expected to move from the Hague to Amsterdam.
De Kaijzer said: “If we were to move all practices to one location in Amsterdam, it could mean we close the Hague; but we also considered keeping a representative office for clients and for the Supreme Court practice.
“The Hague will remain more or less as it is, but we may strengthen the litigation practice in Amsterdam a little bit.”
At present, litigation is concentrated largely in the Hague.
The decision to scale back De Brauw’s presence outside Amsterdam is part of a process begun three years ago to boost efficiency at the firm.
“We were doing corporate work in all three offices,” said De Kaijzer. “This is the last step. Where there’s still duplication, we’re bringing things together. The most duplication was between Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
“Putting people together in one location will make us much more efficient. There will be more cross-fertilisation. It makes sound business sense.”
De Kaijzer said that the decision has up to now not prompted any staff departures.