KWMSJB to close Berlin office following strategic review

King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin is to shut down its Berlin operations, as two of its three partners exit to launch their own boutique.

Corporate venture capital partners Frank Vogel and Jan Dirk Heerma are set to leave the firm to set up their own venture capital transactional boutique. The outpost’s only other partner, tax and regulatory specialist Till Fock, has been offered the chance to relocate to another of the firm’s offices and is currently considering his options. 

In addition to its three partners, the firm’s Berlin office currently also houses counsel Tilman de Vries, who is set to relocate to Frankfurt. 

The three Berlin associates will be split between the new boutique and following Fock.

The firm said the decision to close the office was the result of a strategic review of its German operation, which kicked off last month following the appointment of Munich funds partner Sonya Pauls and Frankfurt partner Stefan Kruger as the jurisdiction’s co-managing partners (4 February 2014). 

KWMSJB managing partner Rob Day noted: “Since Sonya and Stefan’s appointments to lead the German practice, we’ve had a hard look at our operation and are focused on growing our capability and practice in our major offices of Munich and Frankfurt.

“With our partners in Berlin we have mutually decided to close the Berlin office.”

The firm remains committed to its German venture capital funds practice, which already advises a number of Berlin-based clients from its office in Munich. 

Day said that the firm intends to focus on building its Munich and Frankfurt outposts, with an eye to bolstering their litigation, corporate, funds and competition offerings in particular. 

Last month KWMSJB hired former Linklaters corporate partner Franz Schaefer for its Munich office, alongside counsel Martina Wind, and it expects to grow its partner headcount further in coming months. 

KWMSJB is not the only firm to reduce its Berlin operations in recent months. Last September, Hogan Lovells shut down in the city after its entire nine-partner team jumped ship to Morrison Foerster (24 September 2013).

Meawhile Shearman & Sterling also slimmed down in Germany last year, closing its Düsseldorf and Munich offices in favour of consolidating its Frankfurt office (23 April 2013).