Conflicts and clashes in Berlin

This week’s big European news story is really one of two halves.

When Morrison & Foerster (MoFo) announced it was launching in Germany through the hire of Hogan Lovells technology partner Christoph Wagner, with the rest of the firm’s Berlin office expected to follow, it seemed like a fairly straightforward hire-and-open story.

But then things got complicated. First of all, Hogan Lovells said while Wagner’s departure was “pre-planned”, the rest of the office had confirmed they would stay.

Next, it became apparent that Wagner had controversially penned an article in the German press earlier this year criticising key Hogan Lovells client Deutsche Telekom, and the story turned to the age-old issue of conflicts. It would not have been the first time that a European partner walked out after finding a difference of interest between an international firm’s key clients and his own roster – indeed, another team in Berlin walked ahead of the Hogan Lovells merger, citing conflicts as the reason.

Wagner’s story, however, is even more complex. On Monday The Lawyer revealed that he was asked to leave Hogan Lovells after the Deutsche Telekom article. Evidently, the firm was hoping to manage a potentially disruptive influence, but instead the action appears to have caused the loss of the whole Berlin team.

MoFo gains an experienced group of lawyers whose profile fits into its own technology-heavy practice. Hogan Lovells, while surely rueing the departure of the rest of the team, will take comfort from the fact that Berlin only contributed 10 per cent of its German revenue.

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Competition – Hogan Lovells: 50:50 joint ventures — possibility of parental liability for EU antitrust infringements confirmed