As the fourth largest economy in the world and the largest in the eurozone, Germany is a leading source and destination of the world’s capital. Its ability to attract foreign direct investment is built upon its modern finance system, reliable legal structure, attractive tax subsidies, excellent infrastructure and large consumer base. It is also a first-class centre of research with by far the highest number of patent filings in Europe. As a result, over 45,000 foreign companies operate in the country and around 4 per cent of global direct investment flows through its borders. For law firms it is a highly desirable market – albeit an atypical one to try to succeed in – which has added an interesting dimension to the significant lateral movement in the market of late as international firms jockey for position.
Consisting of 16 federal states, Germany’s economy is far more decentralised than the London and Paris-centric models in the UK and France (Fig 1). The country has a number of agglomerated business centres across the federal states: to the north, the major seaport of Hamburg is the second largest city and a centre of legal expertise in the transport sector. The capital (and largest city) Berlin is a key market for regulatory work, tech start-ups and real estate; while on the river Main, Frankfurt is the financial centre – home to the European Central Bank, the Deutsche Bundesbank and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Close by, Cologne, Düsseldorf and – further to the south – Stuttgart make up the country’s industrial heartland and its mid-cap market. Düsseldorf is also the most popular court for patent infringement litigation in Europe. Meanwhile, Munich is the capital of the rich Bavarian economy and the city is regarded as a major centre of tech, manufacturing and insurance; it’s also home to the headquarters of the European Patent Office.
These important regional business centres thus spread the riches of German industry and investment across the entire mainland and represent a key strategic consideration for law firms. Critically this means that an office represents the type of sectors and locality a firm wants to be active in. Larger firms tend to have offices in several German cities, but it clearly does not make strategic or commercial sense to expand into too many cities – as conveyed by office closures from King & Wood Mallesons, Hogan Lovells, Shearman & Sterling, White & Case, Orrick, Olswang and Freshfields in the past three years. As you can see from a selection of full-service German and international law firms in Fig 2, there is no single geographical model that is shared; rather, for example, corporate and finance-focused firms tend to concentrate on the financial hub of Frankfurt, while Munich and Düsseldorf are more crucial bases for tech and IP-minded firms.
This adds an interesting dimension to the spate of lateral movement in the German legal market of late. As previously mentioned, a number of firms have either pulled out or restructured their existing positions in Germany in the last few years. Last year Orrick left Frankfurt and Berlin to focus on its practice strengths in M&A, tech, energy and real estate on its remaining offices in Düsseldorf and Munich. A year earlier Shearman reduced its offering by two-thirds, concentrating a smaller force on the high-end corporate market. Meanwhile, Freshfields has announced the closure of its Cologne office and intends to move its staff up the Rhine River into a new enlarged Düsseldorf office to create a “broader offering” based on transactional, investigation, regulatory and disputes services.
Along with office closures and reductions is a commensurate number of new entrants and expansions. In particular, US firms are looking to shake up the lateral market, which has traditionally been the preserve of large national firms and the London-based Magic Circle that moved into the market in the 1990s. The spate started in earnest in 2013. Morrison & Foerster entered the market through the opening of its Berlin office after the lateral hire of nine Hogan Lovells partners, which forced the closure of the latter’s Berlin office. In the same year Latham & Watkins expanded by opening its Düsseldorf office, hiring Shearman & Sterling’s team. Since then the firm has continued to grow in the country with several notable lateral hires of Magic Circle partners in 2016 to bolster its corporate, private equity and capital markets offerings.
Last year US firm Greenberg Traurig opened a 55-lawyer office in Berlin, through a mass hire of Olswang personnel, with a focus on the real estate, TMT and infrastructure sectors. More recently Herbert Smith Freehills opened a third German office in Düsseldorf, following the opening of Berlin and Frankfurt in 2013, which its country managing partner announced by stating: “To be recognised as a nationwide leading firm you need to be in more than one location. Typically, the market leaders have between four and six offices.” In 2016, Clyde & Co hired an insurance team from Noerr, also opening a new office in Düsseldorf. Dentons opened a third office in Germany, adding Munich to its Berlin and Frankfurt offerings, as it looks to become one of the top 10 international practices on the continent. Meanwhile, Gibson Dunn has recently announced the launch of a new Frankfurt office adding to its Munich office, which has also been strengthened through Magic Circle lateral hires this year.
The catalyst for US interest is a boom in deals work in Europe’s largest economy. M&A activity is particularly strong driven by both US and Chinese investors further encouraged by the weak euro and low interest rates. Meanwhile, the slew of law firms moving into the North Rhine-Westphalia region are targeting the significant number of Asian companies that have established their European headquarters in Düsseldorf and Cologne. Add to this increasing regulatory demands, and the growth of IP litigation, competition enforcement and investigations work that is driving up utilisation rates among regulatory and disputes specialists, as well as Germany’s thriving start-up economy, there is plenty at stake for law firms to fight for. As the repercussions of Brexit become clearer, it may also be the case that German will become even more central to foreign investors’ European ambitions.
Yet, instances where law firms have reduced their offerings also warn against over-exuberance. The German market is highly competitive with over 50 international law firms competing with very strong domestic outfits. The pressure on fees is also a key problem for Anglo-Saxon law firms used to charging around 30 per cent higher rates in London and New York than even DAX 30 companies would consider paying. Thus law firms cannot expand too aggressively to take advantage of Germany’s potential – the strategic growth and numerous restructurings and that law firms have put in place to capture and reinforce specific areas of expertise speaks articulately of this. Respondents point to a tension between Germany’s rich assets and its already saturated legal market. Competition for clients and high-status lateral hires is clearly cranking up among law firms and this shows little sign of abating. Ultimately, it is likely that there will be even greater changes to the makeup of the legal market in both the short and long-term.
We recognise 47 individuals as leaders in the field of domestic and international arbitration. Those listed will act as counsel or arbitrator in both commercial and international investment arbitration proceedings.
In this section, we identify eight leading expert witnesses active in international arbitral proceedings.
Seven leading lawyers are highlighted in this chapter for their exceptional asset recovery work, assisting clients with disclosure, freezing and seizure orders and recovery claims.
We highlight 33 leading lawyers in this chapter for their work in the banking sector, handling regulatory and transactional work on behalf of corporate clients and financial institutions.
We list 41 individuals recognised for their practices representing companies, corporate officers and individuals in criminal litigation arising from their business activities. In this field, many of the markets leading law firms are boutiques. Below we highlight some of the most prominent.
In this chapter, 29 individuals are listed for their expertise in debt and equity capital market transactions, advising issuers and underwriters in IPOs (especially on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange), secondary offerings including rights issues, placements and other debt and equity issuances.
Sixty-three impressive practitioners achieve listings in this chapter, and are recognised as leaders in counselling or litigating on various antitrust matters including merger control, the laws concerning cartels and the abuse of dominance.
We highlight 16 leading competition economists for their exceptional work in the field, analysing a variety of issues that arise in antitrust cases such as defining relevant markets, assessing the ease and likelihood of entry, performing complex merger simulations, evaluating merger-related efficiencies and estimating damages.
A total of 18 practitioners are highlighted in this chapter, who have proven expertise in representing a range of clients including owners, contractors and subcontractors in both contentious and non-contentious work within the construction sector. Below we highlight some of the most highly regarded practitioners in the industry.
The following 26 individuals are considered leading experts in Germany when it comes to advising boards of directors of listed companies and substantial privately held entities with respect to the most difficult and sensitive corporate disclosure, governance and policy issues.
Six lawyers are listed for their skills in the transfer of personnel, including navigating corporate and labour laws, regulation and compliance matters.
A total of 49 experts are highlighted by our research this year, who have proven expertise relating to the legal aspects of corporate taxation, including both advisory and controversy work. Below we identify some of the most highly regarded practitioners.
Twenty-four leading practitioners are identified in this chapter for their top-tier energy work representing and advising major energy companies and financiers involved in the exploration, production, marketing and transportation of all types of energy including oil, gas, nuclear and renewables.
A total of 28 practitioners are highlighted in this chapter, who have a proven track record in providing environmental legal advice to clients in transactional, litigation and regulatory matters, as well as strategic planning, dispute resolution and administrative procedures. Below we identify the most highly regarded practitioners in the industry.
This chapter features 11 experts chosen for their expertise in handling contentious and non-contentious franchise law issues, acting for both international and domestic franchisors and franchisees. Below we highlight the most prominent individuals in the market.
In this chapter, we recognise 29 government contracts specialists from 23 firms. The individuals selected advise public authorities and private-sector clients in relation to all issues surrounding public procurement, from drafting and structuring procurement bids and PPP contracts to bid challenges and disputes arising from such arrangements.
In this chapter, we highlight 25 practitioners specialising in representing insurance underwriters, reinsurers, intermediaries and corporate insurers in contentious, contractual, regulatory and transactional matters.
A total of 23 lawyers are listed in this chapter, which focuses on practitioners who provide guidance to companies under investigation by regulatory authorities, as well as companies conducting internal investigations into potentially unlawful practices.
In this section, we identify 27 of the country’s leading investment management specialists. The lawyers listed have significant expertise advising institutions, private equity firms, pension funds, venture capital funds and private investors on the full gamut of fund-related issues, including formation, tax and regulatory matters.
Fifty-one leading practitioners are identified in this chapter for their exceptional work representing and advising management on all aspects of labour, employment and industrial relations law.
We list 51 lawyers for their expertise in life sciences, including advising on the manufacturing, licensing and distribution of pharmaceuticals and medical products including issues relating to product liability litigation and patent licensing and protection.
We list 35 lawyers in this chapter for their expertise in national and international commercial and civil litigation in all areas including corporate, financial and industrial.
This year, we list 42 leaders in German corporate law, with varying expertise in public and private M&A, joint ventures, private equity, and cross-border transactions.
Four individuals are highlighted in our research for their outstanding work, acting as mediators in commercial proceedings across a range of different industries.
A total of 21 individuals are recognised in this chapter, who prepare, file and prosecute patent applications. Below we identify the most highly regarded practitioners in the industry.
A total of 59 individuals are recognised in this chapter, with a proven track record of their work advising and representing clients in relation to their patent portfolios and patent litigation needs. Below we identify the most highly regarded practitioners in the area.
Nine lawyers are recommended this year for their expertise in advising high-net-worth individuals and families on estate planning, trusts, transactions and wills.
Twelve lawyers are recognised in this chapter for their expertise in the defence of corporations involved in product liability cases including product recall, compliance and the resolution of disputes via litigation, arbitration and ADR.
We list 45 lawyers for their expertise in real estate financing, transactions, portfolio and asset management and tax and structuring matters.
Twenty-six leading practitioners are highlighted in this chapter for their top-tier work in the field. This includes advising on a range of matters such as rescue, reconstruction and insolvency procedures, financings, financial restructurings, leveraged buyouts, administrations, rehabilitations, receiverships, liquidations, structuring workouts and turnarounds, and offering advice to companies both in and out of bankruptcy proceedings.
In this chapter, 13 leading sports and entertainment specialists are recognised who cover a wide area of practice, including labour, contract and intellectual property law, as well as merchandising and licensing work.
In this chapter, we identify the country’s leading lawyers active in the telecommunications, media and technology sectors. We single out 80 individuals in the following pages.
Six lawyers are recognised in this chapter, covering international trade, export control and customs law issues.
This chapter highlights a total of 62 practitioners who have a proven track record in representing and advising companies from a wide range of industry sectors on trademark portfolio management, infringement proceedings, anti-counterfeiting and domain names. Below we identify the most highly regarded practitioners in the market.
We list 49 lawyers for their experience in aviation, shipping and rail law including financing, logistics, transactions, insurance and crisis management.
Founded in 1953 as Hasche Albrecht Fischer and following a number of mergers and, finally, absorption by CMS, Berlin-based CMS Hasche Sigle has now grown into one of the country’s largest law firms and continues to stand out as a premier offering with deep local roots and cross-border links. The firm relies heavily on CMS’s strong international network that rests upon links to over 3,200 lawyers in 61 offices across 35 jurisdictions worldwide. The firm is therefore ideally placed to offer German and international clients a comprehensive cross-border service. The firm achieves listings in 17 chapters across this guide, which highlights the breadth of expertise on offer. As attested by our research, the firm is particularly recommended in the areas of arbitration, TMT, competition, government contracts, real estate and labour and employment.
Global legal giant Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer once again emerges as our leading firm in Germany in terms of number of listings, with an exceptional 71 lawyers included in this year’s edition – 20 more than at any other firm.
Gleiss Lutz is one of Germany’s foremost full-service law firms. It is also one of the largest firms in the country with offices across Germany as well as a presence in Belgium, and has the ability to advise domestic and international clients on the largest and most complex transactions and cases in the country with an extensive international network including other leading firms and lawyers. Gleiss Lutz’s prominent position in the market is conveyed by the 45 listings it receives across 19 different practice areas. In particular, the firm excels across its competition, labour and employment, and corporate practice groups, which all achieve numerous listing in the edition.
Hengeler Mueller is one of the most prestigious law firms in the German market. The firm is particularly renowned for the sophistication of its corporate and finance practices, which focus on complex and high-end transactions. As such, its client base includes a majority of the DAX 30, as well as multinationals and major private equity investors. The firm is able to compete with global firms on the international stage through a best-friends network of other leading independent law firms in Europe, including Slaughter and May, Bredin Prat, Uria Menendez and De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek. The firm recently opened an office in Shanghai in response to an increasing amount of Chinese investment in Germany. It ranks as the top firm in our research for M&A, corporate governance, capital markets and banking.
Hogan Lovells boasts four offices across Germany, in Munich, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Hamburg, making it well placed to cater to both domestic and international clients’ business and legal needs throughout the country. The firm achieves 31 nominations this year, standing out particularly for its life sciences, IP and real estate expertise, and achieving further listings for its dispute resolution, corporate and finance practices.
Noerr continues to be among Germany’s premier law firms and one of the few German firms to offer a pan-European presence. It has 13 offices across Central and Eastern Europe, alongside one in London and one in New York. It also boasts an enviable portfolio of clients, including numerous multinational corporations and one of the highest numbers of DAX 30 clients of any German law firm. It is most highly ranked in our research for its M&A, TMT, energy, environment and disputes practices.
Our core competencies include restructuring companies that have been affected by a crisis or insolvency. In more than 30 years, we have gained extensive experience in turning around companies and ensuring long-term business operations. Today, we are one of the top enterprises specialising in restructuring and turning around companies, as shown by listings in INDat, JUVE, Wirtschaftswoche, Focus, The Legal 500, Who’s Who Legal, Best Lawyers and European CEO.
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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.