Freshfields arbitrator blames conflicts as he quits to set up German boutique

The flood of arbitration exits from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has continued with the exit of three German arbitrators to launch a boutique, with conflicts of interest cited as the driving force behind the departures.

Cologne-based partner Christian Borris is leaving in a month to launch Borris Hennecke Kneisel with Frankfurt-based lawyers Sebastian Kneisel and Rudolph Hennecke. Hennecke and Kneisel have already left the firm and the three will launch the boutique in May.

The news comes just one month after London arbitration head Constantine Partasides handed in his resignation to set up a boutique with former star Jan Paulsson and Paris partner Georgios Petrochilos (17 February 2014).

Borris said he was leaving because he was “finding it increasingly difficult to do what I want to do” due to conflicts.

“All the conflicts of interest in a huge firm like Freshfields has basically made it impossible to accept appointments and I didn’t want to give that up at this stage in my career,” he said.

“I think that it’s simply a problem, this conflict debate has been going on for a while and has become more difficult because there are more of these very large law firms,” added Borris. “In absolute numbers the conflict risk has grown. The energy sector particularly has been very difficult as there’s a limited number of players in the energy market.”

The team’s exit will leave a hole in the firm’s German arbitration offering. Freshfields now has only three arbitration partners in Germany, including newly-promoted Hamburg lawyer Patrick Schroeder (13 March 2014).

Star partners fleeing firms for boutiques is increasingly common across Europe. In June last year Bonelli Erede Pappalardo litigation partner Luca Radicati di Brozolo left the firm with an associate to launch a litigation and arbitration boutique (12 June 2013), while Hogan Lovells’ Paris arbitration partner Jean-Georges Betto set up alone in late 2012 (13 November 2012).

Large boutiques like Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan have also profited, taking partners like Herbert Smith Freehills’ litigation head Ted Greeno (27 March 2013) and Allen & Overy (A&O) global arbitration head Stephen Jagusch (9 May 2012) and partner Anthony Sinclair.