Wessing seeks consultancy remedy as merger splits firm

German firm Wessing is bringing in a UK consultancy to rescue it from crisis as partner dissent threatens to split the firm.

Disagreement over whether to merge with a UK firm has caused division within the firm and forced a group of partners from the Munich and Hamburg offices into secret negotiations with Bird & Bird last month (The Lawyer, 12 March).

However, all official merger talks have now been put on hold until a unified strategy has been agreed.

The decision to bring in the legal management consultancy firm Hildebrandt International was made at the partnership meeting last month.

The consultancy, which will look at the structure of the administration and billing and marketing practices, is expected to bring Wessing into line with its UK and US counterparts.

In tailoring the firm’s structure, partners hope to increase its merger potential. The move follows the resignation of Wolfgang von Meibom as Wessing chairman and the appointment of a new management committee.

Munich partner Wolfgang Rehmann and Hamburg partner Andreas Meissner, who were voted in last year, will be joined by Andreas Schreiber in Frankfurt and Heinrich Stallknecht in Düsseldorf. It has not been decided whether to elect a new chairman.

Meibom, who has been chairman for the last six years and is also Wessing’s top biller, has been the driving force behind the national integration process. But according to one Wessing partner, he has come into constant conflict with the Frankfurt office which favours a stand-alone solution.

Frankfurt is one of Wessing’s less profitable offices, and a number of partners question the logic of its independence, given its relatively low rating within the Frankfurt market. “A lot of the best billing partners aren’t satisfied with the current situation, but the firm is unable to agree on a solution. There’s so much resistance,” says a partner.

As well as disagreement over whether to merge, there is also dissent within the ranks of those who are agreed on a merger.

Wessing is known to have relationships with Bird & Bird, Nabarro Nathanson, Theodore Goddard and Eversheds. In February a group of partners in Wessing’s Düsseldorf office approached Andersen Legal’s German firm Andersen Luther.