UK firms swarm into Germany in Euro drive

UK firms are piling into Germany as the European legal market hots up.

Shipping firm Ince & Co and medium-sized City firm Travers Smith Braithwaite are the latest to create footholds in the country.

Ince & Co is the first UK shipping firm to attack the German market. It is taking on two partners from specialist shipping practice Dabelstein & Passehl in Hamburg. Ince & Co senior partner Peter Rogan said: “We’re well covered in Asia, but we need to cover Europe as well. Germany is a major economy and Hamburg is the second biggest port in Europe.”

Travers Smith Braithwaite is opening in Berlin, taking a partner from international firm Coudert Brothers. Its move surprised many in the legal market, because until now it focused on the UK, where it has a strong practice in corporate finance work. Its only other office on the Continent is in Paris, where it has a small presence. Managing partner Chris Carroll said: “Berlin is a magnet for new economy businesses, it’s a magnet for talent and the youth of Germany.”

Most other UK firms have focused on the key financial centre of Frankfurt, although Dsseldorf and Munich have also been popular outposts.

Magic circle firms such as Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters & Alliance have spent the last two years bedding down their mergers with major German outfits – Pnder Volhard Weber & Axster, Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Lober and Oppenhoff & R㣬er respectively.

US firms have also made Germany a target. Top Wall Street firm Sullivan & Cromwell has poached two partners to open in Frankfurt, including one from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

And McDermott Will & Emery – which three years ago embarked on a major recruitment drive for UK lawyers – has raided the Munich office of German firm Beiten Burkhardt Mittl & Wegener to launch in Germany.