This past November the British firm Allen & Overy had to reinstate a laid-off lawyer after a German labor court ruled that the dismissal was unlawful. A few months earlier, Clifford Chance, another U.K. firm, faced similar claims for wrongful termination by two salaried partners in its Germany offices — who argued that as employees they were entitled to strict job protections. That litigation is ongoing.

Ours is the age of globalization, but some local customs persist, especially in the world of labor law, where standards differ wildly among Western nations. And among these countries, Germany, site of much recent expansion by Am Law 200 firms, ranks among the toughest.