Freshfields to close Cologne with bulk of partners moving to Duesseldorf

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has confirmed it is to close its Cologne office with all 18 of the partners there set to relocate to other offices. 

The closure will see 16 partners moving from Cologne to Duesseldorf, while the final two partners – private equity specialists Ludwig Leyendecker and Kai Hasselbach – will move to Munich alongside six associates.

It it understood that most of the 55 Cologne associates will also transfer to Duesseldorf, however Freshfields declined to confirm exact numbers of staff or associates moving.

In addition to those moving from Cologne to Duesseldorf Freshfields is also relocating Frankfurt corporate partner Andreas Fabritius and worldwide corporate practice group head Rick van Aerssen to Duesseldorf in an attempt to boost the base’s corporate profile. It is not yet confirmed whether the pair are moving there on a temporary or permanent basis. 

The move is set to begin in 2016, with the firm hoping to find a larger office in Duesseldorf by 2018.

The arrivals of Fabritius and van Aerssen are expected to create a “larger and broader based corporate team” in Duesseldorf that is “closely aligned with the Frankfurt team”, according to a statement from the firm.

Duesseldorf and Frankfurt will collaborate on transactional, investigation, regulatory and litigation work.

Leyendecker and Hasselbach are expected to work with the existing Munich partners to build out the office as one of the hubs of the firm’s private equity practice.

Confirmation of the closure comes after the firm announced last month that it planned to ‘merge’ Duesseldorf and Cologne. It did not say which office it planned to close but it was widely expected that the axe would fall on Cologne.

The move comes as Freshfields makes a push to close the profitability gap between the firm and its US competitors.

Commenting on the closure Edward Braham, Freshfields’ incoming senior partner, said: “This begins a new phase of development for our German practice. This combination of partners will offer clients a more integrated and unified service for German and international challenges. This is what clients tell us they now want globally and we are responding.”

Last week, Legal Week reported Freshfields has begun cracking down on partner performance in Germany, with partners in the country set to see their profit share reduced.

The closure of Cologne reduces the firm’s German office count from six to five. Alongside Cologne and Duesseldorf, Freshfields has offices in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich and Hamburg.