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Digesting a merger: CMS absorbs Olswang’s Spanish and Belgian operations as Paris and Munich status remains uncertain

After considerable speculation over the fate of international partners post-merger, CMS Cameron McKenna has confirmed a number of lawyers in the European offices of Olswang and Nabarro will be joining its network on 1 May, while the fate of Olswang’s remaining lawyers in Paris remains uncertain.

As part of the three-way merger announced in September, the offices of Olswang in Madrid, Paris, Brussels and Munich were left in limbo due to the structure of Camerons’ international network.

The CMS network of European firms meant lawyers would have to negotiate joining one of the member firms, which largely operate as separate businesses.

The current arrangement sees Olswang closing its Madrid office, with three lawyers joining CMS’s Spanish business, including partner Blanca Escribano.

In Brussels, where Olswang’s current chairman Dirk Van Liedekerke is a partner, the firm will close its office in April as Van Liedekerke and five associates join CMS Debacker. They will be joined by Nabarro managing associate Rachel Bickler, who will join as counsel.

However, Olswang is set to shut down its Paris operations next week, which in 2015/16 took in around £5m in billings. Lawyers from the office had been without permanent accommodation after the lease expired at the start of this year. Several lawyers have already left, including tax partner Julien Monsenego, who joined Gowling WLG, while office head Guillaume Kessler joined Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

In addition, the firm said discussions to move Olswang’s Munich team into CMS Hasche Sigle in Germany are still ongoing. Last month, Legal Business reported Fieldfisher was one firm in talks with several lawyers from the office. Olswang’s German operations at one stage had turnover of almost £20m, before its entire Berlin office left for Greenburg Traurig in 2015. Last year, the Munich office had revenue of £4m from continuing operations.

While Camerons has secured some of Olswang’s international network, a sizeable chunk of the once 100-partner firm have left in the last year. In an interview with Legal Business, Olswang chief executive Paul Stevens said that ‘in excess of 65’ of its current 81 partners will join the merged entity. ‘There have been some conflicts and some people have made other choices’.

For more on the CMS/Nabarro/Olswang tie-up see ‘Sale of the century – Has Camerons picked up a bargain with Olswang and Nabarro?’ 

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