Comment: The US firm has long found its niche in the German market: highly complex transactions with restructuring elements which pay the uncompromisingly high hourly rates demanded. For that to work, quality and dedication has to be uncompromising and the firm has not only a strong reputation for the service and quality of its work, but also for putting in the long hours necessary to end up with that finished product.
The firm is, and will continue to be, primarily associated with Prof. Dr. Gerhard Schmidt, who leads on all the major transactions. This year, along with the tail end of the sale of Tipico, it was the restructuring and sale of A.T.U which caught the headlines. The PE practice was equally busy for investor Advent, to whom the London office has strong ties, and the German office has managed to get a toe-hold with that investor for the first time.
But for the most part it was younger partners coming to the fore and establishing themselves besides Schmidt: Stephan Grauke and Dr. Christian Tappeiner have long built up their own practice in the mid-cap segment, the former in particular for legally complex situations. And there was the first internal partner appointment for some time. But in truth the transactional practice stands or falls in the long term with Schmidt.
It is rare that the firm takes partners from outside, not least because there are few who would fill the profitability criteria but also be happy being number two to Schmidt. Thus the departure of Dr. Volkmar Bruckner, who only came from Latham & Watkins in 2015, to Kirkland & Ellis, was a major disappointment – and shows once again how hard it is for the firm to grow sustainably in Germany.
But this is not the case everywhere: Britta Grauke boasts a strong litigation practice, though she is the only partner here. There was at least reinforcement for the tax practice, which plays a strong service role for the transaction team: Dr. Ingo Kleutgens arrived from Mayer Brown. The financing practice was also bolstered with Dr. Wolfram Distler from DLA Piper.
See also: ?Frankfurt, ?Munich.
Lawyers in Germany: 63
International network: Integrated international firm; very strong US practice and well-established offices in London, Paris, Budapest, Prague and Warsaw.
Developments: Given the immense profitability of the German offices and the central role it has grown to play within Weil Gotshal as a whole (certain key clients of the firm emanate from the offices here), there will be no radical changes in Frankfurt or Munich. But every year the firm gets one year closer to having to answer the question as to what the firm in Germany will look like when the 60-year-old Schmidt decides to move on.
The internal partner appointment is a good step and the firm has taken on two lateral partners in the last three years, but most observers think that growth will have to accelerate if the firm is going to continue playing a similar role to the one it does now in the medium term.
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