Comment: Staff growth is driving this firm: with lots of talented young lawyers and seasoned laterals docking at Dentons, the firm has visibly broadened activity in recent years and raised it to new heights. The firm now comes out on top in DAX corporates’ selection procedures and works for big names like Fresenius and Bayer. Five years after the merger with Salans, many of the hopes have thus been fulfilled. Step by step, Dentons is closing gaps in its German setup. The Munich office, which is just one year old, grew with laterals, incl. experienced lawyers from King & Wood and Baker & McKenzie in corporate, PE and finance. The latter was followed in Frankfurt by the most prominent Dentons hire of recent years: well-respected securitization expert Dr. Arne Klüwer (from Clifford Chance) fired the starting shot for advice on structured finance as the new head of the German banking and finance practice. The arrival of two other finance partners underscores Dentons’ determination to gain a footing in this segment. Frankfurt and Munich are indeed the offices with the most potential still to be tapped, while the epicenter of the firm, Berlin, appears almost fully developed.
Growing with laterals is one thing, but the firm is also growing organically – it appointed seven partners, incl. in corporate/M&A, underlining the future opportunities for its own young talent.
When expanding its work, Dentons always pursues a dual strategy: besides attracting international clients, with its vast global coverage, Dentons is maintaining its strengths in the regional markets. For Germany this means: strong practices for restructuring, tax and real estate, which have been rounded off over the years by growing compliance and regulatory advice (esp. in antitrust). At present, the firm has the most room for development in M&A and finance. Dentons secures steady bread-and-butter work thanks to its broad Germany-wide practice. On top of this, the international instructions and the technical advantage that Dentons has carved out with its Nextlaw Lab initiative are assets, also with regard to turnover. In the long term, this could be the crucial advantage over competitors: Dentons has already won some pitches thanks to these qualities.
JUVE Law Firm of the Year for: Region East.
See also: ?Berlin, ?Frankfurt, ?Munich.
Lawyers in Germany: 131
International network: Integrated firm in the form of a Swiss association, which has more than 150 offices in over 60 countries. In Europe, merger with Boekel (Netherlands) and Maclay Murray & Spens (Scotland). Also mainly present in the US, Canada and Asia-Pacific region, esp. China and Australia, as well as in Africa, the Gulf region and South and Central America. Recent strong growth in Central America through merger with Muñoz Global (Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua). Network of 283 member firms in 160 countries via recently initiated Nextlaw Global Referral Network.
Developments: For a long time, competitors criticized Dentons’ growth for being almost uncontrolled. But the laughter died down with the move of some heavyweight laterals here. The German practice is doing its bit for the constant expansion of the world’s largest firm – by adding capacities at its three offices, or by building on contacts that open the door to new instructions. Besides global visibility, the impetus as a technological early adapter is helpful for defining the firm’s added value over competitors. Dentons’ business development strategy is also different to those of many US and British competitors, who mainly eye high-margin M&A work and use continental European offices as offshore workshops for offices in New York and London. Dentons deliberately banks on its regional strengths and mid-range work and thus boasts deep roots in its local markets, which also protect it against the volatility of pure M&A activity. The firm can therefore promise global full service more credibly than many competitors.
But what if the firm is unable to control the massive growth in the long term? Internal power struggles for a slice of the international pie in Germany would certainly be imaginable, now that there are strong partners at all three offices. German management has cleverly avoided such conflicts so far, but the growth curve was always pointing upwards. Such friction can only be avoided if a great deal of time is now invested in fostering solidarity between the German offices.
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