Comment: Milbank drew attention last year with work for German corporates, and now was the time for the private equity practice to shine. With the Xella sale for US client Goldman Sachs/PAI and the Carlyle/Schön hospital deal, the lawyers showed the position they enjoy in the hard-fought large-cap market. Developments in mid-cap transactions were even more significant. Dr. Michael Bernhardt, who joined at the end of 2016 from Allen & Overy, proved the right choice, as he made Milbank a candidate for a number of mid-cap houses. But the firm, with its roots in the US, managed not only to hold on to connections to German companies like Bilfinger, Metro and Pro7Sat.1, but to build on these, e.g. advice on a Metro spinoff. Of the US firms with a similar setup, Milbank thus probably has the most sustainable and well-balanced client portfolio.
The finance, tax and antitrust practices put in a continued strong performance, shaped more and more by the younger partner generation. Even the experienced associates enjoyed much praise, incl. some lawyers from the Frankfurt finance team, who, according to competitors, “can bring deals across the finish line even without partner input”. In corporate, however, many competitors believe this development has yet to occur. Here, the young partners are still in the shadow of Dr. Norbert Rieger. But this is unlikely to unsettle the team, as clients are already a step further. “We enjoy working with them just as much,” one commented about the younger M&A partners. For the first time in the history of the German offices, Milbank faced a partner departure: Dr. Peter Memminger opened his own firm and took some client contacts with him, incl. Vitruvian and Roland Berger. But this caused less of a buzz in the Frankfurt market than the virtually simultaneous arrival of Bernhardt. In late summer 2017, Milbank went one better and welcomed Dr. Steffen Oppenländer from Hengeler Mueller in London. With this expert for energy and infrastructure deals, the practice widened both thematically and in its staff. This was also a further step in building up a hard-hitting team of lawyers alongside the heavyweights.
Strengths: ?Tax.
See also: ?Frankfurt, ?Munich.
Lawyers in Germany: 47
International network: Originally from New York, further offices in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, and now also in Brazil. In Europe, the firm is only present in London and Germany. Strong in the Far East (Singapore, Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong).
Developments: While other transaction practices are devoting much thought to legal tech solutions, Milbank is banking on traditional virtues: the best advisors for the top-flight cases. But at Milbank too, tasks arise which it will be possible to automate in the near future. Before now, these tasks have landed on the desks of associates, for the selection of whom Milbank invests more than most competitors, and makes fewer compromises: to win the best young lawyers, the partners dig into their own pockets if need be and finance extremely high salaries and comprehensive training programs. As much as this policy has paid off so far, there is no certainty that it will continue to do so in the future. Things could get tight for Milbank if competitors like Freshfields or Linklaters can offer such huge price advantages due to process optimization and technical solutions that the way to Milbank appears far less logical and necessary to clients. This is hardly affecting the firm at present, as deal work is booming like it hasn’t for years, but Milbank would not be the first firm to get sucked into a shrinkage spiral in a less favorable economy and despite a diverse client base. To counteract the risk of such a development – albeit a faraway one – even such an individually focused firm as Milbank will have to devote more attention to the topic of legal tech.
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