Euro Elite 2024: Benelux – Moving with the times

Euro Elite 2024: Benelux – Moving with the times

For independent, full-service firms operating across the Benelux countries, the global uncertainty and turmoil of the last few years has served to highlight the advantages of their business model; being able to pivot between workstreams and react rapidly to changing circumstances has proven to be a concerted advantage. Antoine De Raeve, a senior banking and finance partner who moved from Baker McKenzie to AKD in May 2023, is quick to point out that his new firm is ‘naturally hedged against dips in the transactional market’. This has proven key in recent times, with deals slowing down right across the region because of the combined effects of ongoing conflicts and long-term impacts of Covid-19, despite the positive effects that Brexit appears to have had on the international stance of the Benelux countries.

In the Netherlands, there is reported reluctance at the higher end of the market to invest, with clients seemingly ‘waiting out’ the unpredictability of the current climate; Harmen Holtrop, managing partner at Loyens & Loeff, notes that ‘uncertainty in the market will have a bigger impact on the transactional practices than it may on certain others’, again highlighting the importance of wide-ranging capabilities if firms are to maintain their flow of work. Continue reading “Euro Elite 2024: Benelux – Moving with the times”

Euro Elite 2024: CEE – Firm foundations

Euro Elite 2024: CEE – Firm foundations

The CEE markets continue to suffer from conflict-driven instabilities in the region, with sanctions still impacting most industries and European companies remaining cautious with their regional activities. In the face of these ongoing difficulties, law firms benefited from an uptick in restructuring and insolvency mandates. Simultaneously, new investment incentives do exist. For example, the Three Seas Initiative, a platform that brings together 12 EU member states, is contributing to the acceleration of infrastructure investment in the region.

‘In general, the market in the CEE region was relatively robust,’ says Martin Brodey, managing partner and head of private M&A at DORDA. ‘Due to various developments, financing has often become a challenge, which is why large transactions tended to decline.’ Continue reading “Euro Elite 2024: CEE – Firm foundations”

Euro Elite 2024: France – More of the same?

Euro Elite 2024: France – More of the same?

Described by Darrois Villey tax partner Loïc Védie as ‘better than expected’, 2023 was nonetheless a year marked by uncertainty for Euro Elite firms in France. Lawyers weathered an often-slow market; interest rates reached significantly higher levels than previous years, which limited the overall number of transactions.

In the corporate and finance arena, equity capital markets experienced a noticeable slowdown, characterised by a subdued market. Debt capital markets, however, showcased vibrancy, with a renewed interest in securitisation and factoring. Influenced by leading US firms, this move shaped the financial landscape for French elites, fostering a more diversified and adaptable approach to funding strategies. The trend underscored a departure from traditional methods, offering heightened flexibility and a broader array of financial instruments, prompting a re-evaluation of established approaches in the dynamic French market. Continue reading “Euro Elite 2024: France – More of the same?”

Euro Elite 2024: Germany – Navigating tumultuous waters

Euro Elite 2024: Germany – Navigating tumultuous waters

As Germany faced the prospect of its first two-year recession since the early 2000s, the legal market grappled with an intricate web of challenges and opportunities in 2023. With the country’s GDP contracting by 0.3%, the impact of increased energy costs, inflation, higher interest rates, and falling industry demand did not go unnoticed. However, despite the economic downturn, the German legal sector remained a robust force within the EU, and independent firms proved once again their ability to adapt to an ever-changing geopolitical and legal landscape marked by adversity.

Germany’s leading independent law firms continued to record revenue growth in 2023, fuelled by volatility across sectors and an increasingly intricate regulatory landscape. ‘Clients are experiencing substantial pressure in today’s market, especially during times of economic uncertainty, which means they are constantly assessing the horizon’, says Luther’s managing partner Elizabeth Lepique. ‘In connection with the energy transition and the decarbonisation of the German economy, the growth in revenue is largely attributable to a growing number of client mandates.’ In a year marked by economic turbulence, Luther emerged as a persistent standout performer, securing energy mandates from prestigious clients such as E.ON and EnBW. Continue reading “Euro Elite 2024: Germany – Navigating tumultuous waters”

Euro Elite 2024: Iberia – Out the other side

Euro Elite 2024: Iberia – Out the other side

It first appeared that cautious optimism would characterise the Iberian legal market in 2023 but no-one predicted quite how turbulent the year would turn out to be. Rising interest rates, mounting geopolitical tensions in Europe, and a risk-averse investment environment created arduous conditions for deal-making across the continent. Portugal and Spain were no exception.

In 2022, both countries exhibited signs of a robust recovery following the relaxation of pandemic restrictions and a surge in investment in the infrastructure and energy sectors. The year that followed proved to be more challenging. ‘2023 was not the year for M&A,’ says Paula Gomes Freire, managing partner of VdA. Continue reading “Euro Elite 2024: Iberia – Out the other side”

Euro Elite 2024: Ireland – Under pressure

Euro Elite 2024: Ireland – Under pressure

Despite recent laments from London corporate pundits over a depressed deals market, the view of many is that the Irish market is bucking global trends.

Stephen Keogh, William Fry’s head of corporate, says: ‘From a transactional point of view, the big feature this year so far has been a smaller amount of multi-billion deals and probably a lower average deal size, but all of our data is pointing to a similar volume of transactions this year compared with last year, which is kind of surprising given there’s so much negative global sentiment out there.’ Continue reading “Euro Elite 2024: Ireland – Under pressure”

Euro Elite 2024: Italy – Time to shine

Euro Elite 2024: Italy – Time to shine

The instability caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and exacerbated by Russia’s war with Ukraine, with the resulting gas supply difficulties and growing inflation, has affected the Italian legal market as much as anywhere else. This notwithstanding, Italy’s leading independent law firms were able to curb the slowdown in some practices and achieve excellent results in others, most notably through investment in technology and new talent.

Perhaps the most interesting development was the launch, on 1 January 2024, of PedersoliGattai, resulting from the merger of Gattai, Minoli Partners and Euro Elite firm Pedersoli, together with a third group of professionals led by Carlo Montagna and Stefano Cacchi Pessani. PedersoliGattai has ambitions to be an Italian legal powerhouse offering consultancy services in a range of practice areas. The firm hopes, according to founding partner Bruno Gattai, to provide ‘better advice on cross-border deals in M&A and banking and finance’. Continue reading “Euro Elite 2024: Italy – Time to shine”

Euro Elite 2024: Nordics – Horizon scanning

Euro Elite 2024: Nordics – Horizon scanning

With soaring interest rates, global instability, as well as political and economic insecurity both at home and abroad, the beginning of 2023 was a cautious and uncertain time for law firms across the Nordic region, particularly given the tumultuous year that was 2022. Nevertheless, the region has remained remarkably resilient to global pressures, with firms seeing 2024 as a year of opportunity, driven in part by weak local currencies in Sweden and Norway, developments in AI and ESG mandates, and a surprisingly active corporate space.

‘Like most lawyers, we were surprised at how good 2023 was,’ says Jan Dernestam, managing partner at Mannheimer Swartling. ‘We had to predict cautious budgets for 2023, but it’s looking like we’re up roughly 10% from 2022. This goes for most of the larger firms in Scandinavia.’ Overall, he notes: ‘It’s difficult to pick one area where we’ve been busy because we’ve been busy all over,’ despite the initially challenging market. Continue reading “Euro Elite 2024: Nordics – Horizon scanning”

Euro Elite 2024: Southern Europe – Treading carefully

Euro Elite 2024: Southern Europe – Treading carefully

The Southern European market has been largely dictated by the recent inflow of foreign investment to the region, as the real estate, renewable energy, and corporate spheres profited extensively throughout 2023. The Euro Elite’s Southern Europe contingent comprises firms from the highly competitive Israeli and Greek markets. While Israel is technically not in Europe, it has been included in the Euro Elite analysis for some years. However, the country’s war against Hamas has sent shockwaves through its $431bn economy, affecting many thousands of businesses and plunging many industries into crisis – making any assessment of the legal market inappropriate at present.

At the close of 2023, Greece’s economic growth continued to outstrip that of other European nations, with the country experiencing a sector boom in the real estate and construction industries. George Bersis, managing partner of POTAMITISVEKRIS, partly attributes the progress down to ‘the reforms of the current pro-business government kicking in’ alongside ‘foreign direct investment’. Blackstone Real Estate Partners Europe is championing this investment drive, as evidenced by its purchase of five high-end hotel resorts for €178m. Continue reading “Euro Elite 2024: Southern Europe – Treading carefully”

Euro Elite 2024: Switzerland – Endurance race

Euro Elite 2024: Switzerland – Endurance race

Switzerland’s legal market faces similar reversals to the world at large: regulatory shifts, geopolitical flux and technological advancements are keeping partners on their toes. ‘The legal market is always developing in parallel to the general economic situation,’ comments Bär & Karrer’s Susanne Schreiber, who co-heads the firm’s tax team. In Q1 2023, Switzerland’s annual inflation rate rose to a high of 3.4% in February, 0.6% up on December 2022. In Q2, things started to look up with rates decreasing to 2.6% in April. Since then, rates have been on a steady decline, remaining at 1.7% for both September and October 2023.

Interest rates, too, have stabilised. Since July 2023, the Swiss National Bank has kept its policy rate at 1.8%, providing a sense of stability to the Swiss economy. Practice areas such as litigation and tax were extremely busy in 2023 while areas like M&A and capital markets saw a decrease in deal volume compared to previous years. Banking and finance and real estate and construction remained stable throughout the year. Continue reading “Euro Elite 2024: Switzerland – Endurance race”