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Leading, London-based law firm Herbert Smith has announced plans to form an alliance with German firm Gleiss Lutz Hootz Hirsch. The Herbert Smith firm, with 15 offices across Europe and Asia, claims the deal involving up to 850 lawyers in 12 countries could lead to a merger. The announcement came in response to a vote over the weekend by Herbert Smith partners in favor of striking a formal relationship, rather than a full-scale merger, at the moment. Although the proposed plan falls short of a merger, it is clear that the firm has not ruled this out. Senior partner Richard Bond says, “It is not just another association — it’s a legally binding agreement, which could lead to a merger.” He adds, “This is an exciting development for Herbert Smith. Both firms have the same commitment to quality and a similar culture and vision for the future. This will also enable us to take advantage of the exciting developments in Europe and, in particular, in Germany.” The alliance marks the fifth alliance between U.K. and German law firms. The two firms will do joint client pitches and share resources in training. Law firms such as New York-based Clifford Chance and London-based Linklaters have already paved the way in merging with German firms, but managing partner Martin Diller at Gleiss claims that an alliance is a better plan. He says: “At the moment, in Germany, we are seeing the consequences of full mergers in firms and the tremendous problems some of them are having.” He adds, “We are committed to building a long-term relationship with Herbert Smith and are confident that our combined strengths give us the ability to take advantage of the growing opportunities for providing global legal advice. Herbert Smith has particular strengths in M&A and corporate work, and it is believed that the amount of U.K.-German corporate deals undertaken was the “direct driver” in forming the alliance with Gleiss. Gleiss has offices in Berlin, Stuttgart, and Frankfurt and is ranked 17th in the German league table. Herbert Smith will now have an extra 123 lawyers across Germany to add to its total number of 1,700 staff in the U.K.

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