Christine Blaise-Engel and Markus Sengpiel
Two of Europe’s legal heavyweights, French giant Fidal and German independent Luther, are teaming up to launch an exclusive association under the umbrella of a Swiss verein.
The association, dubbed Unyer, will see the two firms retain their individual branding and legal status in their home markets while pooling resources and investments under the new brand in order to expand their services for international clients through a “one-stop-shop approach”.
Fidal and Luther, based in Paris and Cologne respectively, plan to attract one ‘exclusive’ Unyer member firm per country, aiming to establish a presence in the majority of the top 20 global economies by 2030.
The two firms, whose combined turnover approaches €500m, currently possess a combined network of more than 2,000 lawyers and professionals across 10 countries in Europe and Asia.
Unyer will be managed by a two-person executive committee consisting of Fidal senior partner Christine Blaise-Engel and Luther joint managing partner Markus Sengpiel.
Each member firm will send three representatives to the association’s assembly board. The Luther contingent is made up of co-managing partner Elisabeth Lepique, Luxembourg office head Eric Sublon and private equity partner Andreas Kloyer. Representing Fidal will be chief executive Jean-Godefroy Desmazières, executive committee chair François de Laâge de Meux and technical director Laurence Dreyfuss-Bechmann.
“Our strongest motivation in creating Unyer was a broader internationality and exclusivity, which other organisations do not have to the same extent,” said Sengpeil. “By adding scale, a compelling industry focus and a distinctive innovative power we are now forming a game changer and we are open for new members if they have a similar fit and approach.”
Both firms are key legal players in their home markets, with Fidal operating 90 offices in France and Luther running 10 locations in Germany. According to research by The Lawyer, Fidal was the third-biggest law firm in Europe in 2020, posting €324m in revenue. Meanwhile, Luther occupied the tenth spot on the list with €218m.
Under the Unyer brand, the two firms plan to structure collaboration around an “industry mindset”. New member firms will be required to possess a full-service offering as well as a strong industry focus in their home markets in order to be admitted to the association.
The association plans to further distinguish itself from similarly structured associations by targeting non-traditional legal enterprises, including legal tech companies, with the eventual goal of setting up joint tech-focused offerings between member firms.
Both firms have explored – or been involved in – tie-ups in the past. Luther reportedly entered merger talks with the UK's Addleshaw Goddard before negotiations fell through in 2017. In 2018, Fidal’s decades-long collaboration agreement with KPMG went south when the accountancy giant hired 145 lawyers, including 26 partners, for its new French legal arm.