17 Jun 2022

Cleary Gottlieb hires HSF’s former German managing partner to boost corporate practice

M&A lawyer Nico Abel joins New York firm’s Frankfurt office

The Lady of Justice statue and fountain at twilight in Frankfurt's old town

The Lady of Justice statue in Frankfurt's old town Shutterstock

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton has hired Herbert Smith Freehills’ (HSF) German managing partner Nico Abel to its M&A practice in Frankfurt. 
 
Abel joins the New York firm’s corporate and M&A practice after four years at the helm of HSF’s German offices. He moved to HSF for the 2013 launch of the firm’s German arm in Berlin and Frankfurt from Norton Rose Fulbright, where he was also a partner. 
 
At Cleary, Abel will continue his practice focused on private acquisitions and disposals, public takeovers, joint ventures and restructurings, the firm said. During his tenure with HSF, Abel was particularly active in the fintech sector, having advised buy now pay later company Klarna and e-payment service provider Heidelpay on a handful of acquisitions. 
 
Michael Gerstenzang, Cleary’s managing partner, said: “[Abel is] an exceptional lawyer who brings an incredible wealth of experience in the European M&A market to our already formidable group.”
 
Cleary’s robust EU antitrust group received a boost in March when the firm hired competition partner Isabel Rooms from Linklaters in Brussels. Rooms, who spent 11 years at Linklaters, marked the first lateral addition to Cleary’s Brussels office in 15 years. 
 
The firm zeroed in on its European network in its 2021 batch of partner promotions, with more than half of the new partners coming from Cleary’s offices in the region. The promotions included one new partner apiece in Milan, Brussels, Cologne and Paris, while intellectual property lawyer Gareth Kristensen and competition lawyer Henry Mostyn got the nod in London. 
 
Cleary has around 60 lawyers working across its two German offices in Cologne and Frankfurt. 
 
HSF, meanwhile, has grown its German team to more than 60 lawyers, including 17 partners since it first set up shop in the country in 2013. The firm shuttered its office in Berlin in 2019 in order to focus on building out its capabilities in Frankfurt and in its third German office in Düsseldorf, which it opened in 2015. 
 
Recent notable moves for the firm in Germany include the addition of corporate partners Jan Eltzchig and Heike Schmitz, who joined from DLA Piper in September to shore up HSF’s German insurance sector expertise. 
 
A spokesperson for the firm said the search for Abel’s replacement is currently underway.

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