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Cleary taps A&O for Frankfurt M&A hire as US law firms sustain Euro push

Top 25 Global law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton  has bolstered its ranks in Frankfurt with the hire of corporate partner Michael Ulmer from Allen & Overy (A&O), the second German partner to quit the City firm this week.

Ulmer had joined A&O as a partner in 2006 from elite German independent Hengeler Mueller. His client portfolio includes leading German corporates, Mittelstand companies, and domestic and international financial and strategic investors.

The appointment is a rare senior recruit for the Wall Street-bred Cleary, which has long been sparing in partner recruitment despite having built a well-regarded European network over decades.

Cleary’s German practice now has around 60 lawyers and a growing reputation for corporate mandates, having advised American Express in the restructuring of its credit card joint venture with Credit Suisse in Switzerland; Citi as financial adviser to ZF Friedrichshafen in its $13.5bn acquisition of TRW Automotive; and Gazprom in a $2bn European oil and gas asset swap transaction with Wintershall.

The 1,300-lawyer firm also recruited from A&O’s London arm in April with the appointment of financial services regulatory veteran Bob Penn, one of A&O’s most prominent names.

Commenting on Cleary’s rigorous approach to lateral hiring, London-based partner Sunil Gadhia told Legal Business earlier this year: ‘We grow cautiously. We are not a firm that shoots out press releases on hires… we don’t hire and fire. It’s pure lockstep. Every partner is a long-term business decision. You need to be certain.’

The move comes as Latham & Watkins this week announced its hire of A&O’s Frankfurt-based partner Oliver Seiler, the City firm’s German international capital markets leader and co-head of its EMEA equity capital markets practice.

Other high profile laterals across Germany in recent weeks include Clifford Chance, which tapped King & Wood Mallesons for its high-billing German head of funds Sonya Pauls.