MoFo snaps up Hogan Lovells’ Berlin office for Germany launch

Hogan Lovells is understood to be losing its entire Berlin office to Morrison Foerster (MoFo), marking the most recent raid on its technology and media team.

Nine partners including leading M&A lawyer and BskyB adviser Christoph Wagner, are understood to be launching MoFo’s new Berlin team, forcing the German Hogan Lovells office to close.

According to Hogan Lovells, Wagner’s departure had been pre-planned, but the remaining eight-partner team had signalled their commitment to stay at the firm in recent months.

“At the time of his departure, the Berlin office partners expressed their strong desire to stay with the firm and we supported that,” Hogan Lovells joint chief executive David Harris said.

The shock departure for MoFo will likely result in Hogan Lovells’ exit from Berlin with the partnership taking associates and office staff with them to the rival firm.

MoFo said the Berlin base would be its first move into the German market. The office will be headed by real estate partner Jens-Uwe Hinder and data privacy partner Hanno Timner, both of whom are joining from Hogan Lovells.

They bring with them a team of partners that include: corporate and M&A trio Karin Arnold, Dirk Besse, Jörg Meissner; competition specialist Eckhard Bremer; TMT regulatory and antitrust partner Andreas Grünwald; and litigation partner Thomas Keul.

It is understood that the team are yet to give official resignations to Hogan Lovells and some of the 14 associates who are also based in the office may yet decide to stay at the firm. Those associates will be given the opportunity to move to one of Hogan Lovells’ remaining four offices in Germany. There are currently 15 associates in the Berlin base.

The move comes two years after another Bird & Bird took a 13-strong team of media lawyers from the firm’s Hamburg office in 2011 (30 August 2011).

Despite counting for a fifth of the firm’s German presence, the Berlin office accounts for less than 10 per cent of total German revenues, with the 23-partner Munich practice, 21-partner Dusseldorf office, 16-partner Frankfurt office and Hamburg team of 15 partners bringing in the other 90 per cent.

The move by MoFo marks the firm’s second opening this year following the January launch of a Singapore office, its fifth in Asia. The firm moved two partners from its Tokyo office to the firm and three associates from the firm’s other office when it returned to the region following a three-year hiatus.