ket. ‘Very few independent top firms are available as
merger partners and we are certainly not one of them’
states Michaëla Ulrici, chairwoman of the Board at
The Netherlands is nonetheless an attractive place to
do business. With a significant number of global headquarters to be found in the main financial hubs, and
the number of tax treaties that the country has with its
neighbours and beyond, it has long been a lucrative
market for companies and their legal advisors. ‘I know
that many global law firms are thinking about their
positioning and some of the global law firms without
an office in the Netherlands are thinking of entering
the Dutch market’ Rademakers claims. ‘Our jurisdiction
is also for tax reasons very attractive. It is only logical
that under these circumstances global law firms that
seek to enter the Dutch market also approach AKD’.
The Dutch market enjoyed a period of buoyancy
and firms here did very well out of soaring levels of pre-crunch M&A. However, the dip it took when deal flow
dropped dramatically in 2009 hit the law firms hard.
Things are improving, but as Ulrici notes, the markets
have not yet stabilised. ‘Last year has shown us that the
market is still volatile. The effects of the economic crisis
are still tangible’. It has taken its toll on a number of
firms here, and the legal market has clearly been affected. Howrey, for example, closed its doors last year
when its IP team left the firm to set new firm Hoyng
Still, the presence of so many heavyweight corporates, such as Shell, Unilever and ING, as well as the
country’s excellent exportation links, meant that
Holland was spared the worst of the recession. That
doesn’t mean that the market isn’t competitive – these
prized clients are increasingly sophisticated when it
comes to selecting their legal advisors.
‘A development of the last years is also that many
clients are shopping among law firms in a country.
Where up to two or three years ago many large corporations often only had one legal advisor in a country or
even worldwide, they now instruct several law firms in
one jurisdiction’ says Rademakers, who also points out
that fees are more of a concern than ever as GCs are
forced to work with reduced budgets and increased
workloads. ‘Large corporations with only holding activities in the Netherlands now go more and more for
national law firms. They get the same quality at more
reasonable fee levels’.
International referrals do provide a main source of
global clients for many of the independent firms, and
understandably they are keen to keep their partners
sweet. ‘Our links with these firms go beyond direct
client work and include secondments and co-operation
in the areas of training and know-how’ says Ulrici, who
claims that this level of integration gives the domestic
The Netherlands is nonetheless an
attractive place to do business. With a
significant number of global
headquarters to be found in the main
financial hubs, and the number of tax
treaties that the country has with its
neighbours and beyond, it has long
been a lucrative market for companies
and their legal advisors.
firms an edge. ‘Experience has shown us that in this
way we can effectively compete with the global firms
that have a presence in our home jurisdictions’.
This approach is an ‘economically successful choice’
for leading domestic De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek.
Snoep does stress, however, that is important to act
seamlessly, although for some there is a question mark
over just how far this can be applied to firms who have
no common management. ‘Besides having a leading
position in our home markets, we are involved in international big ticket transactions and litigation through
long-standing and carefully-nurtured relationships with
selected – non-exclusive – good-friend law firms worldwide. This enables us to select the best firm for the specific job. Given our long relationships with these firms,
we are able to cooperate with them and act as one firm
in relation to the client’ claims Snoep.
But Ulrici believes that the downturn has fundamentally influenced the nature of client and law firm relationships, and that well-established roots in home jurisdictions are what really counts. ‘They realize that this
forms a strong basis for getting them the best legal
solution’ she explains. ‘Although this appreciation has
always been there, it has been enhanced by the recession. Quality, not quantity, is what matters’. ■