Norton Rose snares eight DLA partners for Hamburg launch

Norton Rose has opened an office in Hamburg following a raid on DLA Piper for a group of seven partners, with one more joining the existing Frankfurt office.

Peter Martyr
Peter Martyr

The group, led by corporate finance partner Klaus von Gierke, includes energy, financial services, tax, employment and IT experts.

The exodus leaves DLA Piper with a four-partner presence in the northern German city, with the firm citing “significant disagreements” as the cause of the defections.

Along with von Gierke the other partners who will set up Norton Rose’s Hamburg office are: Ulf Liebelt-Westphal and Jens Suhrbier (energy); Ludger Verfürth (financial services); Uwe Eppler (tax); Frank Weberndörfer (employment); and Flemming Moos (IT). Energy partner Corrado Wohlwend will join Norton Rose’s Frankfurt base.

Chief executive Peter Martyr said: “We’ll develop the Hamburg office so that it focuses on our key sector strengths, which are prominent in the region – energy, life sciences, IT/technology, financial institutions and transport. We aim to grow our world-leading shipping and aviation expertise on the ground with additional partners.”

Norton Rose has been aggressively expanding its global footprint in recent months, with the firm sealing tie-ups with counterparts in Canada and South Africa last November (15 November 2010) following a tie-up with Australian firm Deacons that went live at the start of 2010.

However, despite the firm having an existing presence in Frankfurt and Munich, corporate finance chief Tim Marsden told The Lawyer that the firm had recognised that it needed to grow its German offering, adding that he envisaged the Hamburg practice ultimately doubling in size.

Marsden said: “If you look at the size of the German economy relative to the size of us in Germany, we’re still relatively underweight.

“The extensive experience of our new Hamburg partners complements our existing teams perfectly and will further raise the profile of our German practice.”

Norton Rose hopes to open the office early in the next financial year although no date has been set for the launch.

DLA launched in the city in 2004 when von Gierke was one of three partners and 10 associates who joined from former German ally Görg.

DLA German managing partner Ulrich Jüngst said: “The colleagues who are leaving contributed significantly to the establishment of our Hamburg office in the early phase of the growth of DLA Piper in Germany and we therefore owe them a debt of gratitude.

“However, there have been significant disagreements with the departing partners regarding the strategy and direction of the Hamburg office for some time. DLA Piper remains committed to the Hamburg market and we look forward to developing our presence there further and in a way that supports both the firm’s strategy in Germany and more broadly.”