In the first of our International specials, we take a closer look at the German legal market.

The first thing to understand about the German legal market is its decentralisation. Unlike say, London and Paris, the capital cities which provide hubs for each country’s entire legal operation, Germany offers a number of cities as legal hubs, depending on practice area. Therefore, where you end up working will be strongly related to the work that you do.

Berlin as the capital city is teaming with tech start-ups, leading to good quality technology work. If you find yourself in this cultural centre, there is also plenty for those specialising in real estate and regulatory work.

North of the country, we find the marine city of Hamburg. Its location has ensured a good grounding in transport work, particularly shipping. Germany’s second largest city is also home to strong trade, logistics and renewable energy work.

The next focus is the financial centre of Frankfurt. This city is not only the German home to everything finance, but also home to the European Central Bank, whose headquarters stand in the historic Großmarkthalle in the east of the city. Frankfurt is the city most likely to capitalise on Brexit with relocations of the big financial companies from London, so certainly a city to watch.

This takes us smoothly to Germany’s ‘second financial centre’ of Munich. Munich is Germany’s third largest city after Hamburg, the capital city of wealthy Bavaria, and today home to a plethora of banks, insurers, and the Munich Stock Exchange. The city additionally houses the European Patent Office. Should you focus your practice on finance, insurance, technology, IP or manufacturing, there will be plenty of high quality work for you in Munich.

Finally, we turn our attention to the bread-and-butter of the German legal market with the mid-cap firms located in Cologne and Dusseldorf, and also Stuttgart to the south. This region is popular for insurance and reinsurance work, alongside patent infringement, media, competition and anti-trust.

 

Germany’s multi-region approach can make location strategy difficult for even the most-established international firms, as can be seen when reviewing office openings and closings.

In this year alone, major law firms have been both closing and opening new German offices, and headlines have reported both new lateral hires to strengthen German practices, and plans to reduce Partner numbers in the country.

The first half year of 2017 has seen six of Osborne Clarke’s procurement team leave to set up their own new law firm in Cologne, with Anderson Global also setting up its first office in the city to operate under the Anderson name. In the same period, Freshfields announced the closure of its Cologne office, with most Partners relocating to nearby Dusseldorf.

In Munich, the CMS/Olswang/Nabarro merger has been generating the most movement news, with the members of the Olswang Munich IP team breaking away to form a new IP, tech and media boutique in the city. The newly merged firm holds on to its patent prosecution team who will remain in the IP-focused Munich office.

In Berlin, we note a similar pattern, as DLA Piper’s team in Berlin moved over to DWF when DLA Piper announced the closure of their Berlin office. DWF by contrast, opened their third German office adding to Cologne and Munich.

White & Case have lost more Partners to a new offering in Hamburg. In previous years, White & Case Partners have exited to open new offices in the city for Gorg and Allen & Overy. This time the exits support the new Noerr office launch in Hamburg, leaving White & Case with nine Partners in the city.

Following a decision in 2015 to close its Dusseldorf office in favour of neighbouring Cologne, Freshfields has announced this year that it plans to cut German Partner numbers by 2020. Clearly, getting the right approach to the German legal market is difficult even for established Magic Circle firms.

Conversely, Gowling WLG is expanding with a new office in Stuttgart, adding support to its existing German provision in Munich, which focuses on the IP/IT market.

Similarly, Dechart, Fieldfisher, Watson Farley & Williams and McDermott Will and Emery have all boosted Partner numbers in the region. They all show a good grounding in market knowledge, with Dechart hiring in Frankfurt for their financial services practice, Fieldfisher adding to numbers in Dusseldorf for IP, Watson Farley bolstering its energy and infrastructure offerings in Hamburg, and McDermott Will and Emery adding to antitrust in Dusseldorf. Each hiring reflects the practice areas we know to be successful in the individual cities.

 

Understanding the German legal market is the key to success in the country, and if you have been considering a move, please contact us to discuss the right approach for your practice. We are currently recruiting for two exceptional Corporate roles in Frankfurt. Details for our NQ role can be viewed HERE, and for our 2+ PQE role full details are HERE.