Top of the market getting ever tighter

The heads of company legal departments warn that some of the large law firms have not yet understood that they will lose out with target clients if they do not become more efficient and flexible. The wait for the next billion-euro deal, where top-level advisors are called for, may be a very long one.

Many transaction firms are reacting to the warning with very similar strategies. One of these is to take a close look at the size and structure of their partnerships. Clifford Chance, driven by a strongly centralized management, began to thin out its partnership in Germany, thereby pursuing a path that Linklaters and Freshfields took years ago: a greater focus on transaction-based work.

But Clifford is late. Its reorganization in Germany is taking place in a different market environment to that which Linklaters experienced. Firms like CMS Hasche Sigle and Noerr have sounded the attack. And both have a much better understanding of what they can do to make heads of legal departments happy. Both have been fine-tuning their services in recent years and are seen as more flexible than many others in terms of fees and efficiency. And they have now won the favor of even large corporates. This favor is bringing them transaction work that would have been unimaginable a few years ago – and would have been just as appealing to other firms at the top at the market.

Not only have CMS Hasche Sigle and Noerr managed their remarkable ascents of recent years while at the same time broadening their setups – which ensured the all-important inroads among companies – but also without merging for cross-border activity.

Why some firms are still set on globalization

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