Financial markets rallied in September 2012 to news that the German constitutional court had declared that the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) did not violate German law. The decision – which not only allows Germany to sign a treaty to establish the ESM but also removes the final hurdle to launching a E700 billion bailout fund – had the potential to throw the financial markets into turmoil and cast doubt over the future of the euro.
It follows a tumultuous year of debate over Greek membership, further political union and debt mutualisation, in which Germany, as Europe’s chief paymaster, holds a pivotal position. The rest of Europe – and indeed the world – watched in anticipation as the German constitutional court decided the fate of the eurozone.
Against this backdrop, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel has faced increasing pressure from the German population, a growing number of whom are opposed to further bailouts. German taxpayers are cautious of carrying the burden of the eurozone debt, particularly when the latest signs show that their own economy is beginning to slow down. Despite Germany being the most stable economy in Europe, The Economist recently described it as “Europe’s tired engine”, and reports show rising unemployment and increasing insolvencies among corporates. However, there are a few flashes of optimism: exports continue to be buoyant and trade relations with China are strengthening.
On the domestic front, the focus has been on enforcement. The German authorities have placed a greater emphasis on the prevention of cartels and monopolies and increased enforcement against market abuse, tax evasion and bribery and corruption. The effects of which can be seen filtering through to lawyers’ practices across a number of different legal sectors.
The Federal Cartel Office recently announced that cartel enforcement will continue to be top of its agenda and increased its number of enforcement units from two to three to manage the increasing caseload. With the slowdown in M&A activity creating less merger control work, this focus has ensured that competition lawyers’ practices have remained active during a global financial crisis. Germany’s competition bar is a diverse mix of international firms and local law practices and the corresponding chapter is one of the largest in this publication.
A broader market abuse focus has led to increased attention to market manipulation. The Federal Financial Supervisory Authority’s (BaFin) annual report, published in June 2012, states that BaFin investigated 166 new cases of market manipulation last year, an increase of almost 50 per cent on the previous year. Furthermore, criminal charges were pressed against 211 individuals as compared to 109 in the previous year. The activity of BaFin is mirrored by the growing activity of business crime defence lawyers in the country. In this edition, we recognise 41 “pre-eminent” practitioners compared to the 37 recognised last year.
Corporate decisions have also come under closer scrutiny and there has been a proliferation of cases against former management executives, which has also spiked an increase in the number of directors and officers’ insurance cases. Two of the largest cases concern BayernLB, which sued former executives over a bad investment, and Conergy, where the managers conducted risky transactions that damaged the company in the form of closing supply contracts. As a result, insurance and reinsurance lawyers reported that D&O cases remained the most active line of insurance in the past year. This edition’s chapter shows a slight increase from 15 practitioners to 17.
As a result of this increased regulatory focus, companies have been taking proactive steps to improve their compliance and install anti-corruption structures within their global networks. Corporate governance lawyers have seen an increasing demand for their expertise and are seeing a higher level of scrutiny in the boardroom.
Technology and innovation are key industries for Germany. The country is the third largest medical device market in the world and has a handful of large producers including Siemens, B Braun and Fresenius. This diverse and innovative industry is matched by equally pioneering lawyers specialising in patents, trademarks and product liability, all of which make up sizeable chapters in this edition. It is also a leader in the field of IT and the internet, e-commerce and data protection chapter is the largest in this edition.
As for dispute resolution, the German courts are famed for being patentee- friendly and have seen a recent wave of patent litigation on smartphone technology. While the most active courts are Düsseldorf, Mannheim and Munich, a defining feature of the German legal system is that there is no single specific legal centre and Germany’s other courts have also seen their fair share of action. Furthermore, as a seat of arbitration, Germany has seen the number of companies using the process increase considerably over the past decade. Mediation is also growing in popularity as a dispute resolution method of choice and arbitration, litigation and mediation all make up important sectors of the legal market.
2012 has been a dynamic year for the German legal marketplace. In a competitive market, distinguishing oneself from the competition is the only way to gain market share. In Germany, this has taken the form of sector specialisation, as law firms tailor themselves more specifically to their clients’ industries. It has also led to a pronounced number of spinoffs, particularly in the areas of real estate, intellectual property and tax law. This has taken the form of either a group of associates leaving to start their own firm or a well-known partner leaving and taking a support group. In a legal marketplace already known for its diverse mixture of international firms, national firms and niche practices – it has further widened choice for clients.
Looking to the future, activity in the various legal sectors relies heavily on the recovery of the eurozone. While many hope that the worst is over, tough times are still ahead, according to the European Central Bank’s president Mario Draghi, who recently declared in an address to the European parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee that the “road ahead is still long and it’s uphill”. One thing is certain; Germany’s actions and reactions will continue to be closely monitored by the rest of the world.
In the following pages we identify the leading firms in the country, a mixture of internationally recognised law firms and leading national practices exemplifying the level of expertise on offer across the board.
Germany has a long history of arbitration resulting in a highly developed and internationally renowned commercial arbitration bar, which continues to go from strength to strength. This is demonstrated in our research with 39 outstanding individuals featuring in this chapter, an increase of two on our previous edition.
Partly as a result of the global financial crisis, fraudulent and corrupt activity has come under close scrutiny in the past few years and in Germany, as in other countries around the world, enforcement has been stepped up. For claimants, the most important aspect is the recovery of what is rightfully theirs and hence the development of the asset recovery legal marketplace to cater to this demand. Four lawyers are recognised for their exceptional abilities in this field.
This chapter lists lawyers from international, full-service firms and domestic sets, a testament to the competition within the field and need for varied expert counsel. Our research features 13 lawyers, with the largest contingents from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and Urwantschky Dangel Borst & Partner.
The German banking sector has been hailed as a safe haven in debt-ridden Europe and recent statistics published by the Bank for International Settlements show that cross-border lending by international banks to their German peers increased by $271 billion in the first quarter of 2012. A lot of attention has been paid to the discussions relating to a European bailout fund and the constitutional court ruled in September that Germany can take part in the fund and ratify the European fiscal treaty. From January 2013, new regulations and heightened supervision of the sector is expected with the ECB gaining new powers to scrutinise banks. In this sector we recognise 23 leading individuals.
Business crime defence lawyers have had an exceptionally busy year with those lawyers we spoke to citing an increase in advisory work as well as the volume and complexity of cases. The continuing growth of this sector is reflected in our research with 41 lawyers featured in this chapter in this edition, an increase of four on our last edition.
In a period of unprecedented volatility for the European capital markets, lawyers in the eurozone’s largest national economy are wrestling with the demands of an ever-more complex marketplace. We list the 23 leading capital markets lawyers in Germany in this chapter.
According to our sources, the German marketplace has become increasingly litigious in recent years, with reports of a more Americanised approach to suits and disputes, and a rise in transnational conflicts. This chapter features 28 of the country’s leading commercial litigators, all with diverse practices ranging from sports litigation to traditional corporate matters.
After a lengthy parliamentary struggle, the German Mediation Act was passed into law in July 2012 with the model of court-integrated mediation incorporated into the Act. The Act also includes financial incentives to encourage mediation and the enforceability of settlement agreements reached through the process. Against this backdrop, the use of mediation is expected to continue to pick up pace. We recognise seven leading mediators in this chapter.
Recent years have seen a definite trend in the increased prosecution of cartels in Germany. With enforcement at the top of Federal Cartel Office’s agenda, many competition lawyers have found their practices mirroring this development, especially with M&A activity still relatively slow due to the economic turmoil in Europe. In this chapter we feature 48 lawyers.
The construction industry in Germany continues to weather the storm of global financial difficulty, as investment in construction and real estate projects remains stable. Energy projects are expected to increase in the near future, as the government’s commitment to phase out reliance on nuclear power means the infrastructure for more traditional resources such as oil, gas and coal will need updating. Construction lawyers are therefore predicting a steady stream of work. Our research identifies 19 outstanding practitioners in the field.
Corporate governance has become increasingly important as slow re-growth after the financial crisis forces companies to reconsider their positions. We have listed 26 business-minded lawyers in this chapter.
Last year we reported on the trend of inbound immigration fuelled by the 2005 immigration law which has made it easier for highly skilled workers to enter the country. Our sources explained that the activity levels remain steady: traditional advisory work continues to be the bread and butter of immigration practice, but there have been slight increases in work from the financial, retail and consumer services sectors. Clients continue to retain the services of known experts, of which our findings indicate there are few. Once again we feature four inclusions in this year’s chapter.
The eurozone debt crisis continues to place strain on companies’ working capital and as such reorganisations and restructurings continue to be the mainstay of tax lawyers’ practices. Litigation also remains active as the tax authorities maintain an aggressive approach. Forty-four practitioners are selected for inclusion in this field.
Throughout the world environmental issues are now an essential consideration for any business – and Germany is no different. The government’s commitment to reduce reliance on nuclear energy by closing all nuclear power stations by 2022 means that regulation of alternative forms of power is forming a large part of lawyers’ practice. This year, our research identifies 19 practitioners who stand out for their knowledge and expertise.
The franchise industry in Germany remains busy despite economic difficulty, with a notable growth in international work. Lawyers are expecting this trend to continue into the future, and our research identifies seven outstanding practitioners for their work in this area.
The insolvency law marketplace in Germany is a fairly competitive space where no single firm dominates, and our research identifies a significant portion of selected lawyers from domestic and boutique firms. Our sources explained that the main thread of work emanates from financial restructurings and reorganisations, spanning a range of industries, and a stronger crossover with traditional corporate work such as M&A, whose activity levels continue to rise. We identify 23 leading insolvency and restructuring lawyers.
Solvency II continues to be a driver of M&A activity in the insurance and reinsurance sector. Although insurers have until January 2014 to adopt the directive, they are beginning to make strategic decisions about their lines of business and are concentrating on their balance sheets. On the contentious side, directors and officers remained the most active line of insurance due to worldwide financial difficulties. In this chapter we select the 17 finest lawyers who are “well equipped” to handle the most complex of cases and transactions in this sector.
Internet, e-commerce and data protection remains a huge practice area in Germany, with more complex outsourcing transactions requiring specialised advice. An increase in the use of cloud computing and social media has also required more effective data protection strategies to be developed. Our research identifies 60 lawyers from this thriving practice area.
Lawyers practising in the life sciences sector in Germany have seen a steady stream of work over the last few years. A focus on developing new products has resulted in a range of demand for legal services, from new innovators to multinational companies. Combined with recent regulatory changes to drugs advertising and stricter rules on counterfeit medicines, practitioners are expecting to remain busy. Our research highlights 24 outstanding attorneys, from 19 different firms.
The German labour market has experienced a positive shift in the past year with a refocus on compliance requirements and employee retention, largely due to the improved economic conditions in the country. Companies are seeking to rebuild their work forces and are keeping lawyers as busy as ever. We list 42 experts in this chapter.
While Germany has remained robust during the global economic crisis, it has not been completely unaffected and M&A deals have slowed over the last few years. However the increase in deals over the first half of 2012 could be a cause for cautious optimism. Our research reveals 30 exceptional lawyers who are leading the way in M&A.
Germany may have cause to lean on its oil and gas industries after announcing plans to phase out nuclear power, a source which currently generates 17.7 per cent of their electricity. Although, with the opening of the second line of the Nord Stream gas pipeline later this year, it seems they will not be left lacking. The strength of the industry is demonstrated by the number of lawyers included in this section which has doubled since our 2012 edition. We now list seven outstanding lawyers in the oil and gas sector.
The German patents market has seen a number of high-profile cases in the past year, largely in the telecommunications, electronics and design fields. Lawyers explained that there has been a trend of increased litigation activity and a willingness to pursue prosecutions. The reasons differ from case to case but due to a number of technological advances, particularly in the mobile phones sector, clients recognise the highly competitive margins and seek to aggressively protect them more so than ever. We list 37 patent litigators and attorneys below.
Despite the challenging climate, the last year has seen several German funds launched successfully. However, with the increasing amount of regulation in the area at both a national and EU level, it is becoming an increasingly complex area. We select 17 lawyers with the multi-disciplinary skills required to advise on fund structuring, tax issues and regulations.
Work in the product liability field continues unabated with an increase in cases in the medical and automobile industries. With many crucial issues surrounding product liability still unresolved, work in this area demands the highest intellect and most creative legal minds. We have included the 11 best German product liability lawyers in this chapter.
The global financial crisis has had an unfortunate effect on the project finance market in Germany. The state of the economy means many national lenders remain cautious and government austerity measures have reduced state investments. However, many large international projects have not been deterred and continue to keep German project finance practices busy. Here we list three excellent project finance practitioners.
The German public procurement marketplace remains difficult as lawyers continue to assimilate to the EU rules which allows greater access for businesses to the markets in 2011. However, they must now contend with reduced state budgets and clients placing pricing pressures on counsel. We list 13 experts below.
The real estate market in Germany is slowly improving. In the second quarter of 2012 it was the top performing European commercial real estate market, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. While there remains a fair amount of distressed work such as the selling of debt portfolios, lawyers are cautiously optimistic about the coming year. Thirty-five lawyers stand out for their exceptional abilities in this field.
Germany truly leads the way in regulatory communications with a new 4G phone network, one of the biggest television markets in Europe and leading intelligent transport communications systems. We have listed 18 leading lawyers in this exciting and developing industry.
The German legal marketplace has been affected by significant changes in the past year concerning the EU’s trade defence law and anti-dumping regulations affecting non-market exporters. Lawyers explained that the changes in law have generated more compliance and advisory work, particularly from foreign companies seeking to start operating or trading in Germany and the rest of the European Community. Although the practice area is increasingly active, specialists are well known but few in number. We recognise the four leading practitioners in this field.
The German courts have an excellent reputation for IP litigation and as such attract a vast number of international clients seeking to enforce their trademarks. We select 36 lawyers on the cutting edge of trademark law in Germany.
One of the world’s “elite” law firms, Clifford Chance is “unrivalled” in its scale and depth of legal resources across markets in Africa, the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and the middle east. Clifford Chance prides itself on staying in the vanguard of the legal industry and evolving to meet the demands of a changing, more connected world. With offices in Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Munich, the firm is well placed to handle clients’ every need. Our research identifies the firm a total of 30 times across 16 legal sectors.
CMS Hasche Sigle is a leading German law firm with strong local roots. with nine offices strategically placed in Germany’s key business locations, clients can access specialist advice combined with local knowledge of the market. part of the CMS international organisation, clients also benefit from the firm’s extensive network including 52 offices in 30 countries. with more than 600 lawyers and tax advisers, the firm has grown considerably since its inception in 1990 and continues to pull in some of the top German and international companies as clients. We recognise the firm a total of 25 times across 16 legal sectors.
With over 2,500 lawyers based in 28 offices worldwide, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP is an elite law firm and our Germany firm of the year 2012. Its outstanding presence in Germany is firmly established with over 500 lawyers working nationwide in offices in Berlin, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich. In this edition, the firm has an impressive 65 listings across a staggering 24 chapters, demonstrating its excellence in over three quarters of our practice areas.
Dating back to 1949, Gleiss Lutz is one of Germany’s leading full-service law firms with offices in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart, as well as Brussels. Although primarily a national law firm, Gleiss Lutz has an established global network allowing it to serve clients’ international needs. With almost 300 lawyers, the firm has the combined expertise and experience to handle the most complex cases and projects and counts among its clients leading German and international companies. The firm achieves 36 listings across 15 practice sectors in this edition.
Hengeler Mueller is a world-class international firm with a proud German heritage. Created in 1990 by the merger of two long-established German firms, Hengeler Kurth Wirtz and Mueller Weitzel Weisner, Hengeler Mueller is now a player on the international stage with offices in Brussels and London. The firm has a strong presence in Germany with over 250 lawyers in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich and has a high-profile client list, which has included 22 of the 30 DAX companies. The firm ranks highly in our research with 43 first-class lawyers chosen from 16 practice areas.
Established through the merger of Hogan & Hartson and Lovells in 2010, Hogan Lovells draws upon 112 years of tradition. A global legal services provider, the firm has 40 offices throughout Europe, the US, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia. In Germany, the firm has established a “strong local presence” through its five offices in key business centres and is particularly “renowned” in the fields of intellectual property and product liability defence. The firm’s commitment to excellence and to understanding its clients’ businesses and industries has ensured that it is a “global leader”. The firm achieves a total of 19 listings across 11 practice sectors.
Established in 1950 as a small Munich-based firm, Noerr LLP has since developed an international reputation for “excellent service” across a full range of sectors. It has retained a strong presence in its home country with offices in Berlin, Munich, Dresden, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt, and is frequently recognised as a stand-out firm in Germany. In this year’s edition the firm excels across 11 practice areas, with a total of 20 lawyers listed.
It is not possible to buy entry into any Who's Who Legal publication
Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.