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In the latest of a growing number of law firm mergers in Germany, one of that country’s largest firms, the 372-lawyer group at Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Lober, based in Dusseldorf, merged yesterday with London’s Freshfields. The new firm, to be called Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, will be 1,850-lawyers strong, with 30 offices in 19 countries. The news of the merger comes as New York’s White & Case is in advanced merger talks with the 180-lawyer Feddersen Laule Ewerwahn Scherzberg Finkelnburg Clemm. Headquartered in Hamburg, Feddersen Laule also has German offices in Berlin, Dresden, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Potsdam and in Central Europe. The Freshfields move marked at least the fifth time this year that a German firm has participated in an international merger. On Jan. 1, Freshfields merged with the 120-lawyer firm of Deringer Tessin Herrmann & Sedemund. That same day, Clifford Chance merged with the 262-lawyer German firm of Punder, Volhard, Weber & Axster, as well as with New York’s Rogers & Wells to create a 2,700-lawyer firm. Also in January, London’s 1,100-lawyer Lovell White Durant merged with Germany’s Boesebeck Droste. More recently, the 35-lawyer Mannheim-based Schilling Zutt & Anschutz split in two, with eight partners going to London’s Allen & Overy and eight partners going to Shearman & Sterling. With Germany boasting the largest economy in Europe, German firms have become prized by many law firms trying to beef up their international presence. “If you have global aspirations, you have to decide how to position yourself in Germany,” said White & Case chairman Duane Wall. Aside from its booming economy, Germany is seen as a ripe market for lawyers because the country is experiencing a surge of mergers, acquisitions and consolidations, particularly among the so called “middle-market” of family businesses that formed immediately after World War II. The German government is also expected to repeal a capital gains tax on stock transfers, which would further fuel M&A activity. MARKET IS STILL OPEN Stephen Revell, Freshfield’s managing partner in the United States, said that the firm’s January merger with Deringer made it clear that the German market was not nearly saturated with London lawyers. “It was really the success of the Deringer merger that made us realize we were only scratching the surface [in Germany],” he said. Revell added that Germany is more “polycentric” than England or the United States, where London and New York are clear financial centers, and that law firms in Germany need to have offices in multiple locations. “To capture business, you have to have a presence in more than just Frankfurt, Cologne and Berlin,” he said. Bruckhaus Westrick and Freshfields have worked together in the past on the $183 billion Mannesmann-Vodafone Airtouch merger. In this country, Bruckhaus Westrick’s two-partner satellite, currently located at 10 Rockefeller Plaza, will move to Freshfield’s New York headquarters at 520 Madison Ave., where there are approximately 40 lawyers. Freshfields’ Alan Peck in London, who will be chief executive of the new firm, said that the firm is still hoping to merge with a U.S. firm in the next year or two. “We have made no secret of the fact that America is our next step, but none of the big boys wants to play with us at the moment,” he said.

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