the Leader column

Over the last couple of weeks, anyone flying business class to Frankfurt, Cologne and a whole host of other German cities must have been cheek by jowl with lawyers. Sitting nearest the exit were the hordes plus their dog after a piece of Gaedertz, ready to rush off as soon as the undercarriage hit the tarmac just in case they lost out.

Behind them, sitting across the aisle from each other in this metaphorical cabin, were traditional rivals Hammond Suddards Edge and DLA, both having announced this week that they have found true love in Germany.

Admittedly, their respective chosen partners are not as glamorous as others that have traipsed down the aisle in recent times. But perhaps – and one would hate to jinx anything for them here – the 17-partner Görg and the team of 15 from Knauthe Paul Schmitt, which are betrothed to DLA and Hammonds respectively, make better spouses.

Hammonds' John Heller, who brokered its deal, says that while the team is small, he knows they are all behind the merger. In his hunt for European partners, Heller has spoken to many senior partners who long to merge but are unable to persuade their firms. DLA's Nigel Knowles claims that he has managed to find a German firm where the clients belong to the firm and not to its individuals, and that it works as an entity.

Despite having a bigger international name, Norton Rose has eventually hooked up with a fraction of the firm it first met. Linklaters & Alliance has shed Oppenhoff & Rädler partners through a combination of conflicts and dislocated noses. Some Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer London partners are allegedly a bit miffed that the Brits are no longer in the majority, while Deringer has had to get used to having three in its marital bed. Herbert Smith presented its fiancé Gleiss Lutz Hootz Hirsch Rechtsanwälte with great fanfare, but no date for the wedding has yet been set. Clifford Chance Pünder seems to have escaped any major wrangles (yet), but then its German choice appears to have entirely surrendered to the great might of Clifford Chance.

It may not be a coincidence that neither DLA nor Hammonds are big global players, so they can approach merger as a marriage of equals. Good luck to them both.

Fiona Callister, deputy editor –