Domestic firms top the table for leading Dutch companies

Greenfield UK firms kept at arm’s length in Holland; A&O wins ‘local’ reputation.

The Netherlands’ independent firms are holding their own as the preferred advisers to the top 100 Dutch companies.

In the latest research by legal publisher Uitgeverij KSU, greenfield UK operations such as Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – which has been in Amsterdam since 1999 – are conspicuous by their absence from the top 10. Also missing is Clifford Chance, which opened in Amsterdam in the late 1970s, but which focuses on banks rather than Dutch companies.

Allen & Overy (A&O) has moved up from fourth place in 2002 to second place this year, but is perceived by competitors as a Dutch firm despite its international brand. More than 30 Loeff Claeys Verbeke partners joined A&O three years ago when their firm went through a dramatic split.

The top 100 clients are ranked according to turnover and include listed and private companies. Those surveyed about who they instruct for mainstream work included KLM, Philips, Koninklijke Volker Wessels Stevin, Shell, De Telegraaf, Getronics and ABN Amro Bank.

Albert Dreese, London managing partner of Dutch firm Houthoff Buruma, said: “This is confirmation that the independent law firms are still managing okay. The greenfield firms have been successful in some areas, but not all, and they are not getting the top companies. For the time being it looks like the main independent firms are still doing well in this field.”

The changing fortunes of Dutch companies, particularly in the technology sector, must also affect the results.

Houthoff, which called off merger talks with Norton Rose two years ago, maintained its 2002 position. Close competitor Nauta Dutilh, the largest Dutch firm in terms of lawyer numbers, climbed back up to its 2001 share after losing top-100 clients last year.

More dramatic is the fall of Herbert Smith ally Stibbe. It now has 15 top-100 clients compared with 25 in 2001, when it ranked second only to market leader De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek.