Norton Rose Fulbright

Comment: After the staff unrest of last year, NRF has now reached calmer waters again. The move of senior partner Dr. Alexander von Bergwelt’s corporate team to Dentons ultimately did not shake Munich’s position as the NRF powerhouse. This was chiefly thanks to a number of young partners who broadened the concept of focusing on certain sectors and took over the lead role here: the traditional specialties in energy, insurance companies and pharma have now been added to by the technology sector. A prime example is advice to Rofin-Sinar Technologies, a developer and manufacturer of high-performance lasers, on its merger with Coherent. The firm also stepped up its energy focus: well-regarded lawyer Gerd Stuhlmacher came from Uniper to provide a logical addition to the previously transaction-heavy energy practice. The long-standing relationship with BMW proved sturdy: with von Bergwelt originally cultivating the client contact, it is now a next-generation partner advising the auto manufacturer on M&A activities.
The firm took a giant step forward at other offices too: in Hamburg, a team of nine from White & Case helped the youngest German office establish itself. Among them were established M&A expert Patrick Narr and real estate lawyer Dr. Stefan Feuerriegel, who brought ECE as a client along with real estate expertise. In Frankfurt, NRF bolstered its compliance practice with experienced Metro in-house lawyer Michael Wiedmann. Bearing in mind the growing importance of compliance, this is an important step, esp. as NRF’s competence in this field has been limited so far.
It was also a year of expansion at international level: NRF merged with well-known firms in Canada and the US and expanded its sizeable reach further. So far, outbound work has dominated the German offices’ network activity. The potential for greater networking within the global practice has yet to be fully exploited.
See also: ?Frankfurt, ?Hamburg, ?Munich.
Lawyers in Germany: 135
International network: Integrated international firm with 50 offices in Europe, the US, Canada, South Africa, the Far East and Australia. A Luxembourg office opened in summer 2017. International mergers with Bull Housser & Tupper (Canada) and Chadbourne & Parke (USA).
Developments: The positive development of the Hamburg office and the knowledge that Munich could even cope with the loss of a large team are promising signs for the future of the firm. The partners here seizing on the opportunity to use the space gained to develop their own practices is precisely what the firm needs.
But equally necessary is a German management that bundles the energies of a traditionally individualistic partner culture more effectively. The picture of the future that management has been painting for some time – streamlining the partnership, cutting away unproductive instructions, improving international and national connections – remains blurred. NRF’s work still appears fragmented in some segments; its contacts to corporates – apart from BMW – remain limited.
Instead of chasing productivity expectations, NRF could analyze where it could already be a dangerous rival to other firms. NRF can bring its major international network into play against national firms from the mid-cap segment; attractive pricing and standardized legal tech solutions could help it to rival other large firms. Whether it goes in the one direction or the other: it is now time for NRF to define its goals clearly and then pursue its chosen path more consistently.
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