Comment: Luther has followed a very respectable path in recent years. The steps towards a more stringently managed firm have been taken slowly, but very deliberately by co-managing partners Elisabeth Lepique and Dr. Markus Sengpiel. Last year’s hotly discussed idea of a merger with another firm is no longer up for debate – largely because Luther will not want to lose its hard-fought position in the market and its independence to a potentially larger merger partner.
The upward trajectory enjoyed by the firm is largely due to its ability to muster various practices for its typical sector strengths, incl. the energy sector and the public sector. There were some prime examples this year: the energy practice worked with the corporate lawyers to advise Dutch energy utility Eneco on entering the German market. It is not only the practices that are intertwined, but the offices – with ten German offices, this poses a major management challenge.
Its exceptional geographical breadth is not only a challenge, but also a huge advantage for Luther: the firm boasts deep regional roots, which makes it the top dog where competitors are less visible, e.g. in Leipzig, Hanover and the Ruhr Valley. Staying true to its clientele here, the larger Mittelstand, is in the firm’s DNA. Luther is constantly building on these connections, for instance by entering into a strategic collaboration with industry association Südwesttextil.
Luther has also strategically improved its market and business development by integrating laterals many times, incl. in antitrust, distribution and energy law. The firm is now working, for the second year in a row, on its Berlin setup for advising on infrastructure projects: two new construction lawyers closed the gap in real estate projects in private construction; an M&A lateral from K&L Gates raised the office’s clout. But Luther suffered a high-profile loss in Cologne: former managing and corporate partner Dr. Stefan Kraus and team opened a German office for Andersen.
JUVE Law Firm of the Year for: Environmental and planning law.
Lawyers in Germany: 309
International network: Luther has offices in Brussels, London, Luxembourg, Singapore, Yangon and Shanghai, where there are lawyers licensed in China. Various best-friend contacts remain in place in Europe.
Developments: Now that Luther has answered the question of how it will position itself in Germany by apparently rejecting a full merger, it has to turn its strategic attentions to the next central issues. Among these, firstly, are the new challenges that digitalization entails. The firm is already working on concrete plans and has developed a tool for class actions.
Secondly, Luther needs to consider how it wants to present itself beyond the German borders. Although it already has numerous contacts here, esp. in other European countries, the best-friend network still makes a rather ill-defined impression. Scrutinizing existing structures and creating reliable connections with the German practices remains a key task for management. At the same time, Luther is successfully expanding its own international offices, e.g. in Brussels, Luxembourg and London. But in the end the firm will not be able to avoid the decision of whether to continue relying on an informal network or whether – following the model of firms like CMS – to enter into a formal structure with formal partners and the advantage of a common brand. Finding suitable partner firms for the latter while holding on to the firm culture established over many years is likely to take quite some time.
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