Making ripples – Turbulent times ahead for the Swiss legal market

An evolving Swiss legal market is embracing consolidation and lateral recruitment as firms thrive amid a buoyant deals climate. Will turbulent global conditions disturb the calm?

Switzerland is changing. Among the country’s traditionally-minded law firms, conservatism is in decline, fuelled by a greater appetite for domestic mergers, increased lawyer mobility between firms and a belated focus on alternative legal service provision. Accordingly, Swiss lawyers are much like the swans on Lake Geneva: smooth and serene on the surface, all the while paddling furiously underneath. An energetic response to the fresh demands of an evolving legal services landscape is paying dividends for some.

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Red dragon, white cross – Can Chinese money kickstart Swiss markets

Swiss deal markets languished throughout 2015 amid a gloomy economy. Can a surge in Chinese investment kickstart corporate activity?

‘In our worldwide business, the volume of mergers is at a record high. However, in Switzerland we can talk about a stagnation of deals,’ says Guy Vermeil, managing partner of Lenz & Staehelin. His downbeat assessment of the domestic M&A market is supported by last year’s numbers. As the broader Swiss economy stalled with GDP growth of only 0.8%, KPMG’s annual transactional review labelled 2015 as ‘troubled for the M&A market in Switzerland’. Transaction volume declined 17% compared to 2014, from 420 to 350 deals, while the aggregate value of completed M&A with a Swiss component fell 55% to $84.9bn.

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Aftershocks – hard decisions for Swiss lawyers amid a turbulent market

A dramatic change to monetary policy and a systemic overhaul of financial services regulation in progress mean the Swiss legal market is experiencing upheaval not witnessed for generations.

When even that most venerable of Swiss industries, watch-making, comes under threat, you know the country has a problem. But this proved to be the case in the early weeks of 2015: global brand Swatch saw its share price slump 15% after the Swiss National Bank (SNB) announced on 15 January that it would abandon the cap on the Swiss franc against the euro that it first introduced in September 2011. Keeping the franc at CHF1.20 to the euro had became increasingly expensive for the SNB, as it sold its own currency and bought up euros, sterling, US and Canadian dollars and yen, usually in the form of government bonds.

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A wider horizon – Switzerland edges into the global economy

With Switzerland drawn increasingly into the wider regional economy, the country is competing for investment on quality rather than its traditional role as a tax shelter. Legal Business profiles the advisers catering to a globalising corporate sector

While historically relatively untouched by the globalisation of legal services, international firms have continued their recent surge into Switzerland, with Geneva – home to a third of the world’s private wealth – emerging as the most popular hotspot. As recently as January, CMS von Erlach Henrici – the local Swiss member of the global CMS network – merged with Geneva practice ZPG Avocats, adding six partners, including former ZPG managing partner Charles Poncet to the firm, now known as CMS von Erlach Poncet.

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Switzerland – Being Prepared

In 2012, one of Switzerland’s largest legal practices was founded. But with the country’s banking sector under continual attack, Legal Business asks what lies ahead for the Swiss legal market.

In most markets, it wouldn’t qualify as news but in the conservative Swiss legal community, the creation last April of Meyerlustenberger Lachenal via a merger between Zürich’s meyerlustenberger and Geneva’s Lachenal & Le Fort is still making waves. Currently listed as one of the largest law firms in Switzerland, it is present in Zug, Lausanne and Brussels, in addition to Zürich and Geneva.

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Switzerland – Climb every mountain

A number of UK law firms have launched outposts in Switzerland to enhance their private client practices. LB talks to the new entrants about what drove their decision and the response from the local legal market

UK law firm Speechly Bircham opened a Zürich office in June 2011, marking the firm’s first venture overseas. Private client partner Mark Summers was relocated to Switzerland to head the new operation alongside two associates, with fellow partner William Hancock joining him at the start of 2012.

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Switzerland – Fighting fit

Switzerland’s dispute resolution market is in rude health. LB talks to the key players about recent headline cases and what the implementation of new arbitration rules in 2012 will mean

The volume of Swiss M&A and capital markets may have flattened out in Switzerland but the global downturn has produced a raft of investor claims against banks and investor management disputes. ‘In tough economic times, people are much more prepared to take their case to court and less willing to settle,’ says Patrick Sommer, partner at CMS von Erlach Henrici (CMS). Consequently, Switzerland has become a major battlefield for asset recovery and enforcement of foreign judgments.

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Switzerland – Splendid isolation

The global economic crisis and a strong currency are challenging Switzerland’s M&A deal flow. LB looks at how Switzerland’s transactions market is standing up to the pressure and talks to the lawyers involved in recent headline deals

As an exporting country, Switzerland is not immune to the general crisis and slow down of growth in the rest of Europe. Add to this a tough financing environment, and it is no surprise that the country’s transactional lawyers are reporting a dwindling deal flow.

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Switzerland – On The Rise

While several leading Swiss law firms contemplate their new lives as corporations, LB finds out what a series of high-profile partner exits means for Switzerland’s famously conservative legal market

This year, Zürich-based law firm Pestalozzi celebrates its 100th birthday. Just ten years ago, it joined forces with Geneva practice Lachenal Brechbuhl Cottier & Roguet to become Pestalozzi Lachenal Patry. But in late 2010, the two factions parted company, shutting down the Brussels office along the way.

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Time for change

With some of the cornerstones of Swiss identity – banking and secrecy – under threat, the country’s law firms are caught up in the maelstrom. LB uncovers how Switzerland’s conservative legal community has been responding to the upheaval.

Switzerland recently encountered its most significant period of economic turmoil, and its lawyers are right on the front line. Although the consequences of the financial backlash were largely kept at bay through government intervention, hitherto unknown banking and investor losses were recorded. Continue reading “Time for change”