Fieldfisher adds Berlin base to launch litigation legaltech unit amid rise in German mass litigations
UK firm plans to grow new Berlin team to include 50 professionals in the coming months
UK law firm Fieldfisher has set up an outpost in Berlin to serve as a base for its new specialist group litigation unit, Fieldfisher X, in a bid to leverage legaltech solutions to assist clients in navigating the booming German mass litigation market.
The new unit will focus on providing scalable services for companies and public organisations facing large mass litigation claims in Germany, which have been picking up steam in Europe over the past several years.
Leading the venture is unit managing director Jan Wildhirth, a former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer associate who founded and was a partner at Hamburg-based legal services provider eagle Isp before joining Fieldfisher in January as a technology and operations partner.
Wildhirth will be joined in Berlin by IP enforcement and litigation specialist Philipp Plog, who serves as managing partner for Fieldfisher’s German arm, as well as dispute resolution partner Jonas Mark.
The Berlin team will total 10 professionals and also include data scientists, software developers and project managers who will work with the firm’s international dispute resolution practice to create tailor-made advice on individual client mandates, the firm said in a statement.
The venture aims to leverage tech to provide clients with support on issues such as data protection and regulatory changes by providing a central source for solutions related to tactical planning, legal analysis, digital data, interface management and strategic communication, among other areas.
It also adds to Fieldfisher’s significant existing German footprint — the firm currently has offices in Hamburg, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt with a regional team that includes 36 partners, according to its website.
A spokesperson for the firm said Fieldfisher X hopes to grow its headcount in Berlin to 50 professionals within the next couple of months by recruiting lawyers, operations specialists and case management experts with large group litigation experience.
“With Fieldfisher X, we will expand our core advisory business and support our clients in tapping new potential and tackling complex challenges,” Plog added. “The focus will be on the scalability of projects, where we can provide comprehensive, efficient solutions from our new Berlin base."
Wildhirth characterised the move as a “radical step” for the firm’s position in the mass litigation market in Germany.
“We are not just creating an in-house centre of excellence, but a new entity that will work directly with clients and actively engage with the market,” he said.
From the start of 2015, Wildhirth worked as a self-employed lawyer advising startups, VCs and founders on matters including corporate law, financing rounds and crypto before joining Fieldfisher. He also founded eagle Isp in 2019, leaving the company last June.
Earlier he had a stint as the COO of Axel Springer’s digital consultancy arm, Axel Springer hy, and spent 18 months in Freshfields’ Hamburg office as an associate in the corporate department. He trained at German independent Hengeler Mueller.
“I look forward to transforming the traditional legal service model into an integrated legal solutions provider in an exciting and fast-growing international law firm,” Wildhirth said.
Last September, Deloitte’s German legal arm teamed up with local boutique firm Frommer Legal to establish a new entity focused on defending companies against class actions in Munich amid the rise in European class action lawsuits. The new firm, Classreaction, was created to help affected companies deal with high work volumes involved in large class action matters by leveraging Frommer Legal’s in-house legaltech platform, JUNE.
Class actions in the EU and UK grew by 120% from 2018 to 2020, according to a study published by CMS last year, with the number of technology-relates cases increasing 15-fold over the last four years. The study attributed the rise to the introduction of US-style opt-out procedures in the UK and the Netherlands, the increase in the availability of litigation funding and the accompanying rise in the number of specialist claimant law firms, including US practices like Hausfeld, which have moved into Europe.