17 Mar 2022

Heuking’s income dips to €185.4m as it adjusts to end of diesel emissions claims boom

German independent reports ‘sound’ performance despite second year of declining revenue after record high

Dusseldorf cityscape with view on media harbor, Germany

Düsseldorf Kotomiti Okuma; Shutterstock

Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek has posted a 2.4% decline in revenue to €185.4m for 2021 as it continues to adjust to a profession-wide winding down in diesel emission collective claims in Germany.

The leading independent described the result as ‘sound’ given ‘the further decline in the number of collective redress cases’ and a second year of Covid-19 restrictions.

Heuking – a top 10 German firm by revenue and 15th in The Lawyer’s Europe-wide ranking for 2020 – was one of the main beneficiaries of a surge of diesel emission claims against its client Volkswagen, overseeing 10,000 diesel processes at peak times as a subcontractor to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, according to news outlet Juve.

That work had started to tail off in 2020, leading the firm to record a 2.5% dip in revenue from a record high of €194.7m, Juve reported.

Last March, international arbitration and litigation practice co-head Ulrike Gantenberg, who had spearheaded the firm’s diesel litigation work, left the firm to set up her own boutique, Gantenberg Dispute Experts.

Heuking managing partner Dr Andreas Urban said: “Thanks to our full-service approach, our firm has weathered the [Covid-19] crisis well and has been able to compensate for decreased revenue in large collective redress proceedings by adding new clients and further developing existing business. This leaves us confident that we will also master 2022 well together, despite the critical global situation”.

European Law Firm 2021 Financial Results

DateFirmCountryRev (€)m% +/-
5 AprilCuatrecasasSpain35011
17 MarchHeuking Kühn Lüer WojtekGermany185.4(2.4)
15 MarchGarriguesSpain414.27.1

Last year Heuking celebrated the 50th anniversary of its launch in Düsseldorf. Since then it has grown to more than 400 lawyers, tax advisors and notaries, with eight offices in Germany and one international branch in Zurich.

Notable hires in 2021 included that of an eight-strong employment team from Dentons in Berlin, led by Dr. Utz Andelewski. The Berlin office also grew its venture capital practice with the hire of Ariane Neubauer as an equity partner from Noerr, where she was an associate partner.

The posting of Heuking’s revenue comes hard on the heels of a strong 2021 performance by continental Europe’s largest firm, Garrigues. It saw growth bounce back to 7.1% in 2021 to hit €414.2m after a lacklustre performance in 2020.

Meanwhile, firms in Germany have been positioning themselves for an expected rise in collective claims. Last month, Fieldfisher set up an office in Berlin to serve as a base for a new specialist group litigation unit, Fieldfisher X, in a bid to leverage legaltech solutions to this class of work. 

And last September Deloitte's German legal arm teamed up with German boutique firm Frommer Legal to establish a new law firm focused on defending companies against class actions

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