Latham & Watkins set for Euro expansion with Frankfurt office

US firm Latham & Watkins is pressing ahead with its plans for European expansion and is set to open an office in Germany within the next six months.

A core team of no less than five partners, including both US and German lawyers, will be recruited to set up an office in Frankfurt.

The practice will be purely corporate, focusing on capital markets, M&A and technology and will give support to the US and London offices. Lathams executive committee member Bill Voge says the move is client-driven. “Our clients like our services, but they want a unified set of lawyers for both equity and debt. They want a consistent picture.”

Lathams represents all major investment banks and a number of leveraged buy-outs (LBOs). Managing partner Joe Blum says clients want a one-stop shop which will fulfil the need for German and US law capabilities. As the trend for mergers between German law firms and US and UK firms continues, Lathams is losing many of its longstanding relationships.

“We’re reluctant to give work to our competitors,” says Voge. “We’ve had a long relationship with Oppenhoff & R‰dler, but after it merged with Linklaters we looked at it very differently.”

Lathams started an aggressive expansion strategy after its plans to merge with UK firm Ashurst Morris Crisp fell through last June. Voge told The Lawyer (19 June), though, that the firm had changed its plans. “A lot of people say to me, åIf an ideal firm turned up would you tell them to go away?’ I think now the answer would probably be yes,” he said.

Instead the firm grew organically, setting up offices in Germany, France, Spain and Italy.

Blum confirmed that nothing has changed. “We very much believe in the organic model and in adding capability when our clients demand it,” he says. “This means we can build in those areas where we have expertise.”

Lathams is just one of a number of US firms aiming to open in Germany. McDermott Will & Emery, Debevoise & Plimpton, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Brobeck Phleger & Harrison and Kirkland & Ellis all plan to open offices there. Sullivan & Cromwell, which has had an office in Frankfurt since 1995, is also looking for German lawyers.