Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP

  • Overview


The Scoop

As a result of successful mergers with German firms, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer reigns as the Magic Circle's "most European" law firm. In 2008, it was the third-largest firm in the world by revenue, according to The American Lawyer's Global 100. A multifaceted practice encompasses antitrust, international corporate work, finance, dispute resolution, real estate, tax and intellectual property. And extra credit for the logo-a spear-wielding angel. Now that's moral certitude.

Continental drift

Established in 1743, Freshfields just might be the oldest international law firm in the world. In the 18th century, the Freshfields family served as solicitors to the Bank of England, while the Industrial Revolution engendered a formidable corporate practice. Though pedigreed, prestigious and profitable, until the last decade Freshfields remained a relatively small outfit whose growth had followed a predictable pattern. With the deregulation of London's financial markets in 1986 came an emphasis on transactional work, leading to the firm's upsurge in the 1980s. In the 1990s, Freshfields undertook massive global expansion, launching in Moscow, Beijing, Shanghai and Washington DC. The dawn of the new millennium saw integration with two of Germany's top houses, Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Löber and Deringer Tessin Herrmann & Sedemund. The result was a pan-European behemoth, numbering 2,500 lawyers and 27 locations. Significantly, Freshfields is also the only Magic Circle firm operating as an all-equity partnership.

Among the post-merger transformations was a major shift in structure, with senior roles split between English and German partners. Despite the Continental shift and the division of power, the firm managed to maintain its UK prominence. Historic matters include successfully partnering with US heavyweight Cravath, Swaine & Moore in 2007 to help the London Stock Exchange fend off a second hostile takeover attempt by US exchange Nasdaq. In 2008, the firm converted to limited liability partnership status and, despite the global financial slump, managed to take home the "M&A Team of the Year" Award at the British Legal Awards.

American pie

Freshfields is one of the few UK firms to maintain two US offices (New York and Washington DC), both established more than 10 years ago. And while Freshfields' European brot und butter is M&A, stateside the game is finance and antitrust-and now litigation. In January 2009, Freshfields launched a US litigation practice with the addition of three litigation partners in New York, all of whom are former federal prosecutors. The new group will focus on SEC enforcement, federal criminal investigations and complex securities litigation.

Rising in the east

While many firms are only in the last decade discovering the Asian market, Freshfields is, to recycle a phrase from the Empire, "an old Asia hand". The firm has been active in Vietnam and China for more than 25 years, sustaining offices in seven Asian cities. Among recent matters, Freshfields acted on the merger of Morgan Stanley and Mitsubishi IFJ Financial Group's securities units in 2009, a union that forms the third-largest brokerage in Japan. The firm also advised Nomura Holdings as the Japanese financial holding company bought up Lehman Brothers' investment banking operations in Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. The firm's work on the Nomura/Lehman deal helped it pick up an award for "Restructuring Deal of the Year" at the 2009 International Financial Law Review Asia Awards. At the same ceremony, Freshfields also took home the title of "China Practice Team of the Year".

In recent years, the firm has also poured resources into the Middle East and the Maghreb, obtaining a licence to practise in the UAE in 2005 and Bahrain in 2007. Additionally, Freshfields is one of a few foreign firms authorised to advise clients directly in Saudi Arabia.

Powering Porsche

While Freshfields may be best known for its corporate practice, it can also hold its own in the courtroom. The firm recently helped client Barclays Bank obtain a gag order against The Guardian in connection with a dispute over the publication of internal bank documents outlining details of an alleged tax avoidance scheme; in March 2009, the High Court refused to overturn the temporary injunction.

On the finance side, the firm's Frankfurt office advised Porsche on a €10 billion loan refinancing in 2009. Porsche is among the German arm's most important clients. The firm helped the automaker on an €35 billion refinancing in 2007 and is currently advising on Porsche's proposed merger with Volkswagen. Other 2009 mandates in the German auto market include advising Daimler on the sale of $2.7 billion in shares to Middle Eastern investor Aabar Investments. The sale gave Aabar a 9 per cent stake in Daimler, making it the company's biggest shareholder.

Reacting to rising demand in southern Germany, in March 2009, Freshfields added 15 new lawyers to its Munich office, including four partners from its Frankfurt base, to meet an increased need for corporate finance, restructuring and insurance services. The increase marked a rise in headcount of around 50 per cent.

Upwards and outwards

In Freshfields' latest round of partner promotions announced in 2009, 14 new associates were given the nod, a noticeable drop from the previous year's 25 promotions. In addition to making up fewer new partners, the firm has taken other steps to trim costs in the wake of the credit crunch. Freshfields was the first Magic Circle firm to make redundancies, laying off a small number of associates in its London real estate group in September 2008-though it has so far avoided the more far-reaching job cuts that have hit its City rivals. In February 2009, the firm froze associate salary bands at current levels until 2010 and reduced pay for newly qualified solicitors.

Party like it's 2012

Freshfields is a progressive in the nascent legal corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement. The firm maintains that it is the only major international law firm to produce an externally assured CSR report, in alignment with AA1000 international assurance standards and Global Reporting Initiative guidelines. The report covers all of the firm's global offices, tracking community and pro bono data, as well as carbon footprint. Freshfields' CSR and pro bono efforts have won the firm a host of plaudits, including Legal Business' "CSR Programme of the Year" 2009 and IFLR's 2008 European Pro Bono Award.

Freshfields is already a winner in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In February 2009, the firm was appointed official legal services provider to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). Freshfields worked pro bono on London's bid from September 2003 until the city was awarded the Games in June 2006. The firm continued working on various projects for LOCOG and associated bodies following the winning bid and is now advising on a host of issues through a combination of secondees and Freshfields' staff.

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Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP

65 Fleet Street
London EC4Y
Phone: 44 (0)20 7936 4000


  • Employer Type: Private
  • Managing Partner: Ted Burke
  • Total No. Attorneys 2010: 2,600

Major Office Locations

  • Vienna, Austria
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Shanghai, China
  • Beijing, China
  • Washington, DC
  • New York, NY
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Moscow, Russia
  • Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • Madrid, Spain
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Ha Noi, Vietnam
  • London, United Kingdom
  • Paris, France
  • Munich, Germany
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Frankfurt, Germany
  • Cologne, Germany
  • Hamburg, Germany
  • Dusseldorf, Germany
  • Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  • Milan, Italy
  • Rome, Italy
  • Tokyo, Japan
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