Beiten Burkhardt used to be a household name in the German legal market for many years. Now a new chapter in the law firm’s history has just begun: Together with two other partner law firms from France and Italy, ADVANT Beiten, that is the new name of the firm, has founded the international alliance ADVANT. Thomas Wegerich spoke with Managing Partner Philipp Cotta about this development.
Business Law Magazin: Beiten Burkhardt has recently joined forces with fellow law firms NCTM (Italy) and Altana (France) to found the network ADVANT. Please explain the strate-gic thoughts and aims behind this initiative to our readers.
Philipp Cotta: The market is becoming ever more competitive for multinational work for international clients, and we felt that a joint proposition with a deep European focus on clients represented a much stronger offering than if we continued to ‘go it alone’ in our respective countries. At the same time, the needs of major international clients – particularly those from the US and Asia seeking to land or expand in Europe, as well as those of European clients – are becoming more complex and multi-jurisdictional, so the timing is right for this offering in the market. We also realized that Brexit is changing the landscape in the legal market creating new opportunities for a genuinely European player with a strong presence and deep roots in Continental Europe.
Business Law Magazin: How long did it take to prepare and finally launch the cooperation – and how did you identify your initial partner firms?
Philipp Cotta: The idea for ADVANT took shape about three years ago, and we have been working on it ever since. We have known each other as firms and colleagues for many years and worked together on many transactions and cases during that time. Over time, we realized that we share the same values and vision, and we have understood our clients’ increasing need for a European alliance. Therefore, it seemed like a logical step to jointly develop ADVANT starting with the three largest European economies.
Business Law Magazin: How was the move towards ADVANT accepted by the German partnership of former Beiten Burkhardt which is/was a long- and well-established brand in the German legal market?
Philipp Cotta: A large majority of our partners shared the strategic vision of a European alliance. When we developed the concept, it became clear that we needed to take a visible step underlining our commitment to a close and long-term relationship with our alliance partners. This is expressed through our common umbrella brand ADVANT and our common corporate design. It clearly sets us apart from many other more informal alliances and networks. At the same time, we keep our legacy name Beiten to preserve the goodwill that we have built over many years and to show our domestic clients that we are still the same firm with the same quality and service they are used to.
There are many benefits to our respective teams, not least the opportunity to be a part of something bigger and even more international in scope, which offers more interesting and exciting projects to our teams. One important benefit for our younger colleagues is a secondment program, giving our professionals the opportunity to work in other European cities and building connections within the ADVANT family.
Business Law Magazin: ADVANT is organized as a Swiss Verein which basically means that the three member firms are separate legal entities and not fully integrated financially. Which are the pros and cons of the chosen structure from your point of view?
Philipp Cotta: We have decided to collaborate very closely and align on all client facing activities and processes. From a corporate and legal point of view, we are an associa-tion of independent firms, each of which retains its legal and financial independence. For us this is the best of both worlds: we are part of an international firm with a global visibility and larger resources but at the same time we remain in control of our own destiny when it comes to finances, partnership decisions and other local market requirements.
Business Law Magazin: Can you please tell our readers about the management and leader-ship structure you have installed in order to drive ADVANT forward?
Philipp Cotta: The formal leadership structure of the Swiss Verein consists of a board of six members with two partners from each firm. The presidency will rotate every two years. In addition, there is a (more informal) steering group with nine members and a number of other working groups for practices, sectors and operational functions.
Business Law Magazin: Which are the main areas and countries you are focusing on with the new alliance? And in which other countries would you like to add further law firms under the ADVANT umbrella?
Philipp Cotta: We have a total of 14 practice areas and 13 industry sectors in which ADVANT member firms have significant expertise and experience. We already cover the three largest European markets. At the same time, we are exploring a number of priority territories and jurisdictions as part of our long-term strategy. Of particularly interest/importance are Iberia, Benelux, Eastern Europe and the Nordics.
Business Law Magazin: What does ADVANT mean to your existing client base?
Philipp Cotta: ADVANT Beiten will offer the additional international platform and reach but at the same time remain the strong and trusted adviser to its existing client base in Germany and elsewhere. We are convinced that this new offering will attract new international clients and also make us more attractive to talented lawyers with international ambitions.
Business Law Magazin: Let us take a look into the crystal ball: At which point do you expect ADVANT to stand in two and in five years’ time?
Philipp Cotta: Our ambition is to become one of the largest and most comprehensive law firms/associations in the European market, and the clear and preferred choice of legal advisor for those expanding into, or operating within Europe. We aim to achieve this through the addition of new member firms in key jurisdictions across Europe over the years ahead, as well as continuing to grow organically. In five years, I would love to see at least eight ADVANT members covering the most important European jurisdictions.
Business Law Magazine: Mr. Cotta, thank you very much for this interview.