Comment: With new determination, DLA management set about taking the development of the German offices to the next level. Too little management had never been the firm’s problem, but the main difference between now and the previous strategy is that decisions are no longer made autocratically. The management duo of Dr. Benjamin Parameswaran and Dr. Konrad Rohde is intent on partnership decisions being made on a broader basis. As a first step, they set up an advisory committee of twelve practice and office heads. This heralded a key cultural shift. By emphasizing internal cooperation rather than just profitability, and rewarding this in the pay system, DLA is laying the foundations to create a shared canon of values in the years to come. Several partners from various practices, among them corporate, PE, employment and IT, who did not or could not support this course had to go. The firm closed the Berlin office in this context – though it had made little mark on the regional market anyway.
Meanwhile, the progress made in the other four German offices is very noticeable. By welcoming a corporate team from K&L Gates around Andreas Füchsel, Dr. Mathias Schulze Steinen and Claudius Paul, the firm finally brought in the necessary and long-planned reinforcements in Frankfurt. But it is mainly the cementing of contacts among high-profile German corporates that signifies how DLA is on the right track and is becoming less dependent on international network activity. The firm made it onto BASF’s new panel and quickly into high-end instructions, where its involvement with legal tech solutions is an asset. In the litigation practice, Dr. Thomas Gädtke is establishing ever better contacts on management and supervisory boards for D&O liability cases, e.g. litigating for BayernLB in connection with unsuccessful investments. Here and in up-and-coming, strong practices like compliance and distribution law, it is already clear just how much interdisciplinary cooperation pays off.
Because DLA has brought in many laterals in past years, it has the structures necessary to integrate these successfully – this lent the media and IP practice particular momentum. The new payment system introduced for associates, which is fairer and more transparent incl. in the awarding of bonuses, should at least improve the motivation of the young generation and shows that DLA’s attention is not only on laterals.
JUVE Law Firm of the Year for: Trademarks and unfair competition; media; media and technology.
Strengths: ?Insurance contracts: litigation and product advice. Press law, transport law.
See also: ?Cologne, ?Frankfurt, ?Hamburg, ?Munich.
Lawyers in Germany: 220
International network: One of the largest firms in the world with an international network of offices (incl. US, Canada, Asia, South America and Australia), as well as exclusive cooperation with selected cooperation partners (relationship firms). DLA now has 81 offices in more than 40 countries. The firm recently parted ways with unprofitable offices: in Europe it closed its Georgia office (the team went to Dentons). The Canberra/Australia office also closed. But DLA widened its Scandinavian presence by taking over Danish firm Lett, with around 150 fee earners in Copenhagen and Aarhus.
Developments: The new management strategy has two sides: on the one hand the – somewhat overdue – restructuring brought staff unrest at first. But on the other hand, DLA may have freed itself from an obstacle to growth if it turns out that the measures have made the firm more attractive to first-class laterals. Management has left no doubt that DLA wants to keep growing. But it is not just opting for laterals, with four partner appointments in employment, tax and litigation. Eight lawyers were also made counsel, of whom three were from the corporate practice. DLA’s quantitative and qualitative growth cannot be finished, even after the new additions in Frankfurt, if it wants to close in on the top ten firms. There are too few rainmakers among the partners, apart from Parameswaran and Dr. Nils Krause.
The real estate practice first needs to recover from its shock following the move of renowned Munich partner Dr. Carsten Loll to Linklaters in early 2017 and show that it can keep developing. The conditions are good, as the market’s perception did not focus solely on him and DLA also welcomed an up-and-coming, seven-strong team from King & Wood. This fits in well with what is a young and ambitious partnership overall now. But it is precisely such new arrivals that are the reason why DLA cannot shake off its image as a firm for laterals. The new pay system for associates and the internal promotions are a positive signal to its own young lawyers.
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