The creation of US-UK giants Hogan Lovells and SNR Denton may have been the biggest mergers of the year so far but, within the slightly more modest European markets, consolidation is also starting to pick up.
The news that Gleiss Lutz had bagged respected Hamburg boutique Rittstieg has been the pick of the 2010 European mergers. Rittstieg has a stellar reputation in the private equity market, with clients including Gardeur, MPC Capital, Kühne Holding and Tomorrow Focus. For Gleiss Lutz, which last year launched in Düsseldorf, the deal provides an invaluable route into Hamburg as the German firm continues its march to become a national giant.
Elsewhere in Europe this week alone four other independent firms have had similar inclinations. In Finland, Merilampi Attorneys has agreed to merge with Helsinki counterpart Veikko Palotie & Co to form a 40-lawyer firm while AMBOS and NBGO Lex announced a combination in Belgium.
Of course, mergers are nothing new but the desire to beef up or create pan-national practices is moving up the agenda for many law firms. From a European perspective, it is a clear indication that the fight for many regional practices is on a national not international level.
The perceived threat is no longer from the marauding international giants. Many international firms have, instead, opted to focus on high-end cross-border M&A and banking deals, leaving local and regional mandates to local and regional firms. Competition within this sector is pretty fierce and having strength-in-depth, and dare I say a full-service offering, can be the main differentiator.
Strength, it would seem, comes in numbers.
Other 2010 European mergers:
Spain – Dutilh Abogados and Vialegis (90 lawyers)
Romania – Popovici Nitu & Asociatii and Danescu & Asociatii (70 lawyers)
Italy – Lega Colucci & Associati and Traverso & Associati (35 lawyers)
Spain – Larrauri Abogados and J Marti Abogados (18 lawyers)