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Gowling WLG sets its sights on Germany for next merger

|Written By Mallory Hendry
Peter Lukasiewicz, CEO of Gowling WLG Canada, says it ‘makes sense for us to have a bigger footprint in Germany, both from the Canadian perspective and from the U.K. perspective.’

Gowling WLG will be working on two further mergers by 2020 at the latest, with hopes at least one of the two be solidified by next year. The firm confirms this is part of a strategy to boost its footprint in Europe.

“Certainly, an area we’re very much looking at is Germany in terms of identifying another combination member firm,” says Peter Lukasiewicz, CEO of Gowling WLG (Canada) LLP.

The firm has an office in Munich, and it recently opened a smaller office in Stuttgart that currently has two partners and a plan to add a senior associate there shortly. But Lukasiewicz says they think they should have a greater presence as “we have a lot of clients in Germany — both from Canada, from the U.K., from the rest of our firm — and equally we have a lot of clients in Germany who do business in Canada, so it makes sense for us to have a bigger footprint in Germany, both from the Canadian perspective and from the U.K. perspective.

“At the end of the day, Germany is one of the most important economies in Europe,” he says. “If you’re a law firm and in the business of providing the best possible service to your clients, it makes sense to be in that jurisdiction if you’re going to be in Europe. That’s why we’re there and that’s why we want to expand our presence in that jurisdiction.”

Gowling WLG also has a “significant-size” office of about 50 lawyers in Paris, another European jurisdiction on the firm’s radar for expansion.

Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, one of Canada’s largest law firms, combined with U.K.-based Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co. to create the international law firm Gowling WLG in July 2015. The merger was formalized on Feb. 22, 2016.

“When we announced the combination, we set for ourselves a target of adding our third combination member by 2018 so that was in effect a three-year runway we thought was entirely appropriate,” says Lukasiewicz. “We made it clear to our partners, our clients and the legal community that our intention was to expand our combination by adding more member law firms.”

He says it’s something the firm has been “diligently working on for some period of time,” including holding a number of discussions with other firms as they considered the market and various opportunities.

Another area where the firm would like to have a greater presence is Asia. While it has a few offices there currently — as well as a recently announced association with Singaporean law firm JurisAsia — Lukasiewicz says, “We think our presence could be more significant.” He adds that Singapore is a bit more complicated due to restrictions on non-Singaporean law firms owning local firms, leaving Gowling WLG with the option to develop relationships with law firms in that jurisdiction, which is what it has done.

Lukasiewicz says Gowling WLG is focused on Europe and Asia for the upcoming mergers and “actively exploring our options in those two markets.

“We’re ambitious,” he says. “We want to grow, we want to be in a position to better provide service to our clients, and so you’ve got to set timelines, set a goal for yourselves and then get the job done — and that’s what we’re doing.”


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