Comment: Close cooperation between practices, a clear sector focus, a cautious reorientation and restructuring of the partnership and practices, and a cementing of international contacts have all contributed to Noerr being seen in work today that would suit large international firms well. Advice to the shareholders of leading southeast Asian shopping portal Lazada – a company of regular client Rocket Internet – on the sale to Alibaba from China is but one example. With deals such as these, Noerr entered the group of firms in which German lawyers are entrusted to coordinate legal activity across international borders. Advice on the US IPO of Trivago and to franchisor Kieser Training on launching in China demonstrate Noerr’s international ambitions. Besides the London and New York offices, the Lex Mundi network is always helpful. The firm’s long-standing activity in eastern Europe and Russia, where it advised on project development and provided state aid law advice to several auto manufacturers, is an asset today more than ever. While many other German firms turned their backs on the region, Noerr reinforced its commitment: it ramped up the Warsaw office with eleven lawyers from local firm DJBW.
The firm operates sure-footedly on both the global and political stage: with work for the Federal Ministry of Economics in negotiations with energy corporates regarding the nuclear energy fund, Noerr landed a high-profile instruction where the renowned public law practice worked in close cooperation with the funds and regulatory experts. And with advice to the Commerzbank supervisory board regarding potential management board liability for financial penalties in the US, the firm displayed its progress in advice to company directors.
There was a shift of focus internally: having brought in numerous laterals in previous years, Noerr has now committed itself again to its own young talent, appointing six equity partners and making a further ten lawyers salary partners. In the litigation practice, which lost a team to Clyde & Co. last year, one equity partner and three salary partners were appointed. There were several promotions in compliance, while the finance/restructuring interface was bolstered in the insolvency practice.
Noerr also conquered new territory geographically: with a partner trio from White & Case, who cover the fields of corporate/M&A, finance and litigation, the firm launched in Hamburg in spring 2017. Partners also moved from other offices, incl. renowned antitrust and distribution lawyer Prof. Dr. Karsten Metzlaff. But Noerr will need to throw its whole weight into the balance to succeed in this difficult market.
JUVE Law Firm of the Year for: Banking and finance.
Lawyers in Germany: 326
International network: Independent firm with six of its own offices in eastern Europe as well as London, New York, Alicante and Brussels. Noerr is the only German member of the international Lex Mundi network. Noerr nurtures close contacts with notable US firms. Traditionally strong connection with Macfarlanes in London. Very active China desk.
Developments: Following some successful years on its path towards the top of the market, Noerr has reached a point where it is encountering obstacles. The remarkable scale of the partner appointments is a sign of the firm’s maturity, but could also be seen as a reaction to several young lawyers leaving the firm last year.
Although Noerr frequently parts ways with partners very discreetly, some lawyers who have moved away could have been used to protect Noerr’s full-service approach. Sandra Redeker, the practice’s best-known trademark and unfair competition lawyer, left the firm (for SKW Schwarz), and practice head Dr. Christiane Zedelius left to start her own business. Noerr could now use the rebuilding of the German IP team to offer young lawyers development prospects.
The firm continues to hit full capacity in corporate/M&A and is not closing the gap on the German market leaders Hengeler and Gleiss Lutz. Although present on the panels of numerous DAX corporates, Noerr is rarely part of the action in the high-volume deals. And it hardly plays any role in the hard-fought field of public takeovers. That said, progress can be seen in governance advice.
The international network may prove hard-hitting when it comes to coordinating cross-border deals, but many companies shy away from banking on Noerr for international crisis scenarios, despite it being one of the first firms in Germany to establish a compliance team. The fact that auto specialist Noerr of all firms is not playing a relevant international role in the diesel affair can hardly be in line with the firm’s ambitions.
Indeed, Noerr was so busy in recent years catching up with the top of the market that it now presents an almost ambivalent picture: despite efforts to attack firms like Hengeler and Gleiss in corporate/M&A there is a certain hesitation to move out of its comfortable position as mid-cap market leader. The desire to be a pioneer in compliance and play in the big leagues here, however, means the firm needs to create a credible level of internationality in this field while advancing into advice to company directors more decisively in cooperation with the corporate practice.
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