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One of Germany’s top 20 law firms, Gaedertz, is splintering after its partners could not agree on a merger with London’s Norton Rose. The breakup is creating merger and lateral hiring opportunities for Anglo-Saxon firms. The split comes in the wake of Norton Rose’s announcement this week that it will merge with Gaedertz’s 46-lawyer Cologne office. Norton Rose had hoped to merge with the entire 200-attorney commercial firm. But Gaedertz’s 45-lawyer Hamburg office decided to go its own way and recently opted to join Los Angeles-based Latham & Watkins, quashing a deal for the whole firm. That office has a strong reputation in corporate finance. Gaedertz’s nine other offices are now debating their futures, and the scramble is on among foreign firms for the plummiest locations — Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich. The Frankfurt office has been approached by several firms, including Chicago’s Mayer, Brown & Platt, and the Berlin office is also exploring several potential combinations with foreign firms, according to a source familiar with the firm. The Munich office, which is primarily a media practice, may remain independent, the same source said. Mayer Brown spokesmen in London and Chicago could not be reached for comment. Norton Rose said it will soon open offices in Frankfurt’s financial center, and in Munich, the base for Germany’s high-tech economy and venture capitalists. Those will be staffed with a mix of German lateral hires and Norton Rose lawyers. After the merger, scheduled to close by July 1, the combined firm will have more than 800 lawyers and 180 partners in 15 offices in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The firm will be known as Norton Rose, except in Germany, where it will operate as Norton Rose Vieregge. Norton Rose is the seventh of London’s top 10 firms to announce a merger or affiliation with a major German firm. Most recent were Linklaters’ merger with Cologne-based Oppenhoff & R�dler and Herbert Smith’s alliance with Stuttgart’s Gleiss Lutz Hootz Hirsch. Gaedertz is the second German firm in less than a year to break up as a result of merger overtures from across the Channel and the Atlantic. Last summer, half the partners of the boutique corporate firm Schilling, Zutt & Anschutz joined New York-based Shearman & Sterling and the other half moved to London-based Allen & Overy. Some German lawyers see more potential in an American merger partner, while others think London firms make a better match. There are only a handful of German firms remaining that are likely merger candidates for Anglo-Saxon firms. They include: BBLP Beiten Burkhardt Mittl & Wegener in Munich; Haarmann, Hemmelrath & Partner in Munich and Frankfurt; N�rr Stiefenhofer Lutz in Munich; and Wessing in Dusseldorf. Frankfurt-based Hengeler Mueller Weitzel Wirtz, regarded by many as Germany’s top firm, has said it will stay independent. Copyright (c)2001 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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