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European expansion: Speechlys opens second Swiss base as Pinsents and OC bolster Euro offices through lateral hires

It’s been a year of highs and lows for private client firm Speechly Bircham which, after enduring flat revenues for 2012/13 and unsuccessful merger talks with rival private client firm Withers earlier in the year, has opened an office in Geneva this week. Meanwhile, both Pinsent Masons and Osborne Clarke have made key strategic hires to European offices.

For 221-lawyer Speechlys, Geneva will be the firm’s second office in Switzerland, having opened in Zurich in 2011. According to the firm, the region is home to a third of the world’s privately held wealth and a quarter of the world’s private banking, and subsequently a major hotspot for firms honing in on private client work.

The new office will be headed by private client specialists Michael Wells-Greco and Francis Rojas, and will work alongside head of the firm’s Swiss practice Mark Summers. Ironically, both are former Withers lawyers.

Michael Lingens, senior partner at Speechly said: ‘Growing client demand for joined-up corporate and private wealth expertise made a second presence in Switzerland a logical next move for us.

‘Zurich and Geneva are both important centres for the private banking sector and having an on the ground presence in both cities demonstrates our commitment to the Swiss market.’

Elsewhere, Pinsent Masons’ launch of a French tax practice coincides with the hire of Eugénie Berthet, a partner at Marccus Partners (part of French audit firm Mazars), who specialises in cross-border employee share schemes and international tax planning for individuals. Berthet brings considerable experience to Pinsent Masons, as her industry experience extends to working at Landwell, the legal arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, as well as several years as a tax specialist at French blueblood Bredin Prat and at Slaughter and May.

Berthet rejoins former Marccus Partner colleagues, after Pinsents launched in Paris almost exactly a year ago after hiring a nine-partner team from Marccus, including office head Christoph Maurer, providing corporate, commercial, restructuring, finance, real estate, IT, IP, employment, litigation and arbitration advice.

On the new appointment, Jason Collins, head of tax at the firm said: ‘Eugénie is a standout tax practitioner and her specialisms fit well with a cross-section of our corporate clients as well as our focus on financial services, and the needs of our private wealth clients whose personal and business interests cross many borders. We see significant opportunities around offering cross-border tax advice generally and the growth in share plans specifically.’

Meanwhile, Osborne Clarke has bolstered its Brussels and recently launched Paris offices with the hires of IP specialist Claire Bouchenard, founding partner of Paris boutique B-Cube and corporate and technology lawyer David Haex, who was a managing associate at Linklaters in Brussels. Both will become partners at OC.

The extension of the Paris and Brussels offices come after OC dissolved its European alliance last year, parting ways with Belgium’s De Wolf & Partners, Dutch firm Ploum Lodder Princen and France’s Stehlin & Associés of France, before taking on with Italian and Spanish firms SLA Studio Legale Associato and Osborne Clarke Spain.