Comment: With its partner-oriented approach, Oppenländer, a relatively small firm, has been able to operate on an equal footing nationwide with competitors with much higher headcounts in its core fields for years. This is all the more remarkable as the firm has achieved its incredible profile largely without major management efforts.
The firm developed steadily in its signature disciplines. Prof. Dr. Albrecht Bach’s antitrust practice is one of the leading teams when it comes to asserting antitrust damages claims and underscored its solid position yet again with work for Daimler concerning the ball bearing cartel. But Oppenländer is emancipating itself from its image as a plaintiff firm, with the market registering how broad its advisory spectrum now is: Dr. Ulrich Klumpp achieved a feat observed nationwide against Sky regarding the assignment of Bundesliga broadcasting rights. The defense against damages claims and litigation for companies in antitrust proceedings are featuring more heavily in work. Both are the domain of, among others, new partner Dr. Florian Schmidt-Volkmar, whose appointment highlights the strength of the practice once again – esp. as the partnership was only expanded last year from within the firm’s own ranks.
Oppenländer boasts one of the most renowned experts for constitutional law in the shape of Prof. Dr. Christofer Lenz, who is often involved in politically sensitive proceedings with huge implications, e.g. in relation to the ban on diesel vehicles. In corporate, Dr. Thomas Trölitzsch is a renowned name for corporate disputes, like that surrounding gelatin manufacturer Gelita. In addition to these instructions, which feature a low leverage, some young partners like corporate lawyer Dr. Felix Born are increasingly mustering large, interdisciplinary teams for transactions. But such cooperation is still not part of everyday life at Oppenländer, which is restricted in both corporate and antitrust by the small associate base. Overall, the firm is still some way from its intended 1:1 leverage. This is possibly part of the reason why Oppenländer now cautiously established a management system: there is now a fixed committee of three partners who systematically develop staffing and business strategies for the whole firm. It is no accident that this committee includes two young partners with a large-firm background. It is these who have recently been steering large teams in instructions. The firm has thus opted for “management light” in a manner of speaking, which suits its style better than the hierarchical structures of many competitors.
Recommended for: ?Antitrust, ?corporate, ?energy, ?M&A, ?pharmaceuticals and healthcare, ?public procurement, ?trademarks and unfair competition. Constitutional law, environmental and planning law, transport law.
See also: ?Stuttgart.
Lawyers in Germany: 37
International network: Independent firm which works together with various large international firms on projects.
Developments: The firm’s success means that it will have to scrutinize itself in certain areas. The freedom of individual partners has always been more important to Oppenländer than squeezing out the last drop of efficiency through tighter management. The firm thus attracted and produced individually strong and very autonomous partners. A fundamental departure from this firm culture is not likely.
But gentle adjustments will be necessary, as the high-end instructions Oppenländer is known for are becoming increasingly complex and calling for interdisciplinary cooperation. In this league in particular, lone wolves often do not fit in with companies’ hiring strategies. Although the partners have proven time and again that they can work in a team, this is not a pronounced firm specialty. The partners recognize this problem – and are attempting to resolve it in Oppenländer style with the committee. The approach of giving lawyers who come from other firm cultures space is no doubt wise. But the established partners must also show they are open to the ideas arising. If this works, it could be the key to attracting team-oriented associates from other firms and thus finally building higher leverage. If it does not, Oppenländer risks frustrating its successful young lawyers and may also endanger its excellent market position.
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