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U.S. giant White & Case has voted to join with Feddersen Laule Ewerwahn Scherzberg Finkelnburg Clemm — the first major American-German merger. Philip Stopford, London partner and member of the White & Case negotiating committee, says of Friday’s decision: “It’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done. The vote by the partners was unanimous.” The new firm, due to start on July 1, will be called White & Case, Feddersen in Germany and the Czech and Slovak republics, but continue as White & Case in the U.S. and UK. Duane Wall, managing partner of White & Case tells “We believe we’re one of the truly global law firms … we had ten lawyers in Frankfurt and now we’re full service in a financial services sense. “We started looking about eight months ago and were pleased to find in the early negotiations [with Feddersens] that our viewpoints on global expansion were similar.” Teams of five partners from each firm formed the negotiating committee. “We have a higher leverage than Feddersens do … and in time we hope to increase that leverage in Germany.” On the partner fall-out Wall says: “In any merger of this size it’s possible that there will be attrition … we’re happy with the outcome. “It’s no secret that we’re in on-going discussions with Jeantet [& Associates] and we’re actively on watch in other places, especially Italy, Spain and China. Law firms like ours must take advantage of expanding markets.” Wall adds: “Feddersens clients, the companies that make up Germany’s all-powerful Mittelstand -� or middle market -� are rapidly restructuring and seeking financing and growth opportunities … they will find the combined worldwide resources of our two firms to be an extraordinarily powerful asset.” From July, White & Case will have 1,300 lawyers in 37 offices around the world. Professor Dieter Feddersen, chairman of the firm’s supervisory partnership board, has no doubts about the suitability of the two firms: “White & Case is unquestionably the right partner for us … its strong entrepreneurial and partnership-minded culture is compatible with our own philosophy.” Feddersens will blend with White & Case’s small Frankfurt office, which opened in 1999. Head partner, Dr Eric Michel, will become the administrative partner of the combined Frankfurt office, which will field 65 lawyers. The merger comes at a price. Commenting on the loss of 14 lawyers from Feddersens in anticipation of the merger, an insider says “For German firms the question of whether to go international is highly emotional. It is a question of your own perspective … some say ‘It’s good for the firm but not for me.’ Time will tell.” Importantly, Feddersens’ presence in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Brussels and Poland offers White & Case German law capability in the wider region. The Prague office promises to be particularly strong as both firms are highly rated there. Feddersens was previously linked with City firm Simmons & Simmons for eight years in a “best friends” relationship. Feddersens spokesman Dr Fischer-Zernin says that continues, but adds: “In the end, our partners thought that a big U.S. presence was more important.” Feddersens is the product of numerous mergers between German firms over the course of the 90s. In January 1999, the national firm Feddersen Laule Scherzberg & Ohle Hansen Ewerwahn joined with Berlin firm Finkelnburg Clemm & Partner. The firm lists Berlin, Frankfurt and Hamburg as its head offices.

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