Legal Business

Surprise and strong words as a nine-partner Hogan Lovells team quits for MoFo’s German launch


While Hogan Lovells has had its integration challenges since the three-year Anglo/American union that created it, the firm’s well-regarded German practice had seemed one part of the empire enjoying prosperous tranquillity.

As such there was some surprise – not least at Hogan Lovells – with the announcement today (24 September), that a nine-partner team is to leave the firm’s Berlin arm to launch a German law practice for top 50 US practice Morrison & Foerster. The team constitutes Hogan Lovells’ entire partnership ranks in Berlin.

Morrison carried out a partner vote to ratify the addition of the team of nine partners, who are currently working with more than 20 associates and counsel. A statement from the firm subsequently confirmed that the US firm had taken on a 30-lawyer team from Hogan Lovells in Berlin.

In what is likely to create tension between the firms, there are still some logistical knots to be resolved. Of the nine partners, it has been suggested that media, M&A and regulatory lawyer Christoph Wagner officially resigned with Hogan Lovells in early September, but it is not clear who else has formally resigned.

However, it has been confirmed that all of the partners listed will be joining Morrison: Karin Arnold (corporate), Dirk Besse (corporate M&A), Eckhard Bremer (competition), Andreas Grünwald (TMT, regulatory, antitrust), Jens-Uwe Hinder (tax, real estate), Thomas Keul (litigation), Jörg Meissner (corporate M&A) and Hanno Timner (employment, data privacy) and Christoph Wagner (M&A, TMT, regulatory and media).

The office managing partners will be Jens-Uwe Hinder and Hanno Timner.

‘We are delighted to become partners of Morrison & Foerster,’ said Wagner. ‘We believe this combination will deliver many benefits to our clients and to MoFo’s well-known TMT clients across its offices in Tokyo, London, New York, Northern California and elsewhere. With MoFo, we build a bridge from Berlin to Silicon Valley to carry our clients at high speed in both directions.’

The departure of Wagner, who was the managing partner of the firm’s Berlin office, and counts BSkyB as a client, will be regarded as a set-back to the 2,527-lawyer Hogan Lovells. Unlike, many of its European offices, the legacy Lovells’ large and profitable German practice has until now largely avoided post-merger losses.

The latest departures still leave Hogan Lovells with 75 partners in Germany across Munich (23), Dusseldorf (21), Frankfurt (16), and Hamburg (15). It is unclear if Hogan Lovells will seek to rebuild in Berlin, which is generally viewed as a secondary legal hub in Germany.

Hogan Lovells co-chief executive David Harris commented in an unusually strongly worded statement: ‘Christoph Wagner’s move earlier this month was planned and agreed. At the time of his departure, the Berlin office partners expressed their strong desire to stay with the firm and we supported that.

‘Despite that support they have now gone back on their commitment and have said that they want to leave. We understand they have accepted offer letters from a competitor, however, they have yet to resign or deal with the usual formalities. Until they do so, we expect them to uphold all their responsibilities as partners in Hogan Lovells. Each of our other offices in Germany is significantly larger than Berlin, which represents less than 10% of total German revenues. Germany overall is performing very well and is a recognised and significant strength of the firm. None of this changes that.’

The addition of Morrison’s Berlin office marks the 1,100-lawyer firm’s second office opening this year, following its launch of an office in Singapore in January.

Legal Business

Asia round-up: Morrison Foerster and Quinn Emanuel expand in Asia


Singapore has been in focus over the past week after Morrison Foerster launched an anti-corruption practice and as UK and US firms vie for the next round of local law licences.

Morrison, which opened in Singapore in January, this week relocated litigation partner Daniel Levison from its Tokyo office to spearhead its Southeast Asia anti-corruption practice.A member of the firm’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and anti-corruption task force, Levison focusses on cross-border disputes and compliance matters, including conducting internal investigations across the Asia-Pacific region.

At its January opening, Morrison’s Singapore office was staffed by Asia managing partner Eric Piesner and tax partner Eric Roose, who remain in the office together with Levison, senior of counsel Marshall Horowitz and corporate associate Lip Kian Ang.

Piesner said: ‘Dan’s move underscores our commitment to expanding our coverage to ensure we are where our clients need us as they expand their businesses while navigating an increasingly challenging regulatory environment.’

Morrison is understood to be interested in applying for a Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) licence, which enable firms to practice Singapore law in all areas except domestic litigation and general practice such as criminal and family law.

In February, Linklaters, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Jones Day and Sidley Austin were the only four out of 23 law firm applicants awarded QFLP licences, after the Singapore Ministry of Law considered factors including the value of offshore work the firm’s Singapore office will generate; the number of lawyers based in the region; the areas of legal practice that the Singapore office will offer; and the extent to which the Singapore office will act as an Asian headquarters.

Sidley has had an office in Singapore since 1982 and offices across Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney and Tokyo, while Jones Day’s Singapore office opened in 2001.

Firms awarded a QFLP in the first round of licensing in 2009 – Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills, Norton Rose, Latham & Watkins and White & Case – will need to again demonstrate that they meet the commitment and performance criteria in order to receive a renewed QFLP next year.

The deadline for the previous two licencing rounds was 31 August.

According to Ministry figures, the nominal value of Singapore’s legal services sector has grown by more than 25% from S$1.5bn in 2008 to an estimated S$1.9bn in 2012, with the value of legal services exported from Singapore up from S$363m in 2008 to S$551m in 2011.

Elsewhere in Asia, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan last week announced its plans to open an office in Hong Kong with the hire of a partner from Korean firm Kim & Chang.

Kim & Chang senior foreign attorney John Rhie will head expansive Quinn Emanuel’s latest office once it receives the necessary approval. Quinn Emanuel New York partner Carey Ramos is also set to join Rhie in Hong Kong as a senior partner. Ramos, who has media and intellectual property expertise, concentrates on complex business litigation, particularly in cross-border disputes and international arbitration.

Managing partner John Quinn said: ‘We have been planning the opening of another office in Asia for some time, and of course we would like this to be in Hong Kong, when we get the approvals. John was our number one choice.’

The office would be the firm’s 14th, having just opened in Sydney this month.