The goal is ambitious: More international reach and a global footprint. To achieve this, the longstanding Best Friends law firms Luther and Fidal have joined forces. In April 2021 they announced the launch of the global network unyer, which was founded as a Swiss association.
The two founding law firms are launching with the aim of gaining one exclusive member in most of the 20 largest economies worldwide by 2030. Each unyer firm must offer full service and a strong industry focus and have a strong brand in its own home market. This is how Luther and Fidal describe themselves. Thomas Wegerich spoke with Luther’s managing partners Elisabeth Lepique and Dr Markus Sengpiel about the concept.
Business Law Magazine: How long did it take to prepare and finally launch your cooperation?
Elisabeth Lepique: We started working on this idea in spring 2020 and used the relatively relaxed situation regarding Corona last summer for personal meetings with our French colleagues. Afterwards we had to set up several virtual meetings to discuss and decide on our plan. It worked extraordinarily well.
Markus Sengpiel: We asked ourselves: How do we want the network we had in mind to be shaped? It was clear to both parties that we wanted to keep the existing brands Luther and Fidal. And that we are looking for further partners throughout Europe and beyond.
Business Law Magazine: How will unyer be organized?
Elisabeth Lepique: It is important for us that we are equal as partner companies. That’s why we have built certain checks and balances into our cooperation. In this way, we secure the positions of the founding partners and are also very transparent for future cooperation partners. In addition, we will jointly develop strategic ideas – for example, also with regard to investments, in order to offer our clients the best possible service.
Business Law Magazine: I assume you are referring to the area of digitalized products and legal tech?
Markus Sengpiel: Yes, that’s right. With regard to legal tech, we at Luther have already done our homework very well. For example, we have installed a functioning collaboration platform, which we use a lot to manage our work streams. Our partner Fidal is also very well positioned in this regard; they have invested and achieved a great deal in the area of legal tech in recent years.
Business Law Magazine: You did not create unyer as a closed shop. For example, Fidal cooperates with the WTS Group in tax law. How is that planned in the long term?
Elisabeth Lepique: That actually fits very well, because Luther also works together with WTS in the area of international tax law on a best friends basis. With Fidal and also with future unyer partners, two criteria are decisive for us: the full-service approach and the high professional quality. Of course, we already have a clear plan as to which other law firms in other European countries we want to involve in unyer.
Markus Sengpiel: I would like to emphasize one thing: Fidal is our partner of choice for the important French market. There are not many other full-service law firms there at the level of our two firms.
Furthermore, our cooperation is already active. For example, both firms recently advised the listed Chinese automotive supplier ActBlue on the acquisition of a business unit from the Continental Group.
In addition, we are already organizing secondments between the law firms and are in the process of networking our office in Luxembourg with Fidal.
And as Elisabeth Lepique already emphasized: The quality of the cooperation with Fidal and other partners is the most important criterion. We are not interested in the speed of further expansion of unyer, but in the sustainable quality of the resulting network. In this respect, the start with two renowned law firms from leading European economies is a signal of what is to come.
Business Law Magazine: Let’s take a look at the management of unyer. The CEO will be Ms. Christine Blaise-Engel, Senior Partner at Fidal. You, Mr. Sengpiel, will be a member of the Executive Committee. What does that mean in terms of day-to-day work?
Markus Sengpiel: Whatever it takes… But seriously: For me, joining the unyer management means that, in addition to my existing tasks, I will devote about 20-30% of my working time to expanding the cooperation. In the case of Ms. Blaise-Engel, this will be about 50% of her time, as agreed.
Business Law Magazine: Are there any particular opportunities for the unyer concept that you see in consulting in the near future?
Markus Sengpiel: Yes, there are indeed. We are seeing an increasing amount of activity out of Asia in the direction of Europe. And in particular in Germany and France. Brexit has increased the importance of continental Europe. That also benefits unyer.
In the opposite direction, as is so often the case, China is the game changer. It is evident and politically desirable that ever greater parts of value creation are being brought to the country. In our view, this leads to an increased and growing need for consulting services for unyer’s German and French clients.
Business Law Magazine: Ms. Lepique, Mr. Sengpiel, thank you very much for the initial insights you have given us. We will follow the further development of unyer.