Elisabeth Lepique (Luther): “The German legal landscape gets increasingly segmented due to the trend related to legal panels”
How to deal with the German legal market? What are the current trends in this market? Elisabeth Lepique, Managing Partner of the leading German firm Luther, decodes this market and its trends.
Leaders League. The German legal market is unique to Europe: decentralized, regional, and very close to clients. How do you perceive its individuality?
Elisabeth Lepique. The German corporate landscape is decentralized and diverse: in spite of regional concentrations of certain industries and sectors, there is no single dominating sector in Germany. As a consequence, demand for legal services is manifold and full-service firms, such as Luther, are in great demand. In addition, German Mittelstand corporations are drivers of individuality: often family-owned, they require their advisors to be in close proximity, and a deep understanding of the client’s business is as important as a longstanding, trustful working relationship based on an understanding of the corporation’s culture and its way to conduct business. Altogether, that’s why German law firms maintain a comparably large number of offices across the major German business areas, which is often astonishing to our peers in other countries.
Leaders League. What is Luther’s key domain of expertise?
E. L. We mainly focus on medium-to-large-scale, often family-owned corporations, among them many world market leaders and hidden champions. Our strength is the capability to advise corporations in all relevant strategic projects and business operations – spanning the whole value chain from product development to manufacturing and global distribution. Our relationship with the client doesn’t stop there – in most cases we advise the company members, often families, as well. Referring back to your first question, this is in most cases the backbone of our business and the anchor of our client relationship and its individuality. At the same time, we are very strong on advising public clients, Bund and Lander, in projects and transactions such as reorganizations, privatizations, re-privatizations and projects, i.e. Public Private Partnerships and infrastructure. Last but not least, our expertise is recognised in areas of law such as energy management, regulation, environment, building and planning, just to highlight some.
Leaders League. As an independent law firm, how do you position yourself in the market?
E. L. Measured by the number of lawyers and tax advisers, we are among the Top 10 German law firms. The current market development in Germany further strengthens our position: due to the trend related to legal panels, the German legal landscape gets increasingly segmented. Particularly large corporations such as DAX30 are reducing their number of advisors, but are at the same time looking for firms that can offer a wide range of high quality services. Meeting these requirements has opened many doors for us.
Leaders League. What projects have you identified for the future?
E. L. Digitalization and infrastructure development are the two major market drivers and our clients have to position themselves. In particular, digitalization comes in many forms – the automotive sector sees electric driving and alternative fuels, driverless cars are under development and with that, versatile and quite substantial legal hurdles have to be overcome – some of these being gate keepers to further progress. Industrial manufacturing is entering the next stage of automation, often referred to as Industry 4.0. This affects employer-employee relationships and involves issues like data protection. Meanwhile, most countries – industrialized as well as emerging economies – are facing considerable challenges in maintaining and establishing modern infrastructure. This concerns not only traditional mobility and transportation projects but also increasingly data transmission by building high-speed and capacity networks. In Germany, for instance, we are front-runners in energy system transformation by phasing out nuclear energy. As mentioned before, our firm has a strong background in energy law and is thus involved in many of the big transformation processes.
Leaders League. How do you organize your firm’s domestic and international expansion?
E. L. With ten offices in Germany, we offer high customer proximity and there certainly is no need for domestic expansion. Globally, we have longstanding best friend relationships with leading law firms. Depending on the mandate, we can choose the appropriate international partner firm and customize the team. Asia is an important market for our clients and thus for us. With our Singapore and Shanghai offices we are serving at least two-third of all German corporations active in the region, and we are continuously aiming to expand our reach on the continent. We were among the first foreign firms to enter the Myanmar market with our now fully-licensed legal office in Yangon. Additionally we are maintaining corporate services centres in India and Malaysia serving our clients’ needs for corporate formation and housekeeping. And we are still ambitious.
Read more insight regarding international legal services markets in our International Report of Top 100 Law Firms. Publication in October 2015.
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