A conversation withAlexander Wolff

Baker McKenzie scores in transaction business

The law firm Baker McKenzie has done well in recent years by assisting clients in complex cross-border transactions. However, it's not just M&A, it's the full-service approach that ensures stable growth, explains the new Managing Partner, Alexander Wolff.

Baker McKenzie scores in transaction business

Alexander Wolff has been elected Managing Partner of Baker McKenzie in Germany for a term of three years, starting from July 1, 2023. Satisfaction with his role remains strong even after a long tenure. "Baker McKenzie has always been an excellent platform for me to operate as a lawyer entrepreneurially. I started at Baker McKenzie 22 years ago and originally planned to stay for two years. Here, you can operate in a very American entrepreneurial way. There are no predefined rigid guidelines, flat hierarchies exist, everyone can unfold and develop. This has remained true over the years and is a fascinating facet to me about this firm. Those who want to unfold economically are well-placed here. This model also makes us attractive to applicants."

Transformation of the legal form

The transformation to a GmbH (limited liability company) in the summer of 2021 has helped in working with clients. "In Europe, everyone works together, we all contribute to a common pool." It promotes collaboration across different countries when everyone benefits. The firm's full-service approach is advantageous. "We are well-positioned in the transaction business and want to continue developing there." Competition is a driving force. "We still stand for complex cross-border transactions. The focus is not only on M&A; there are also antitrust issues, often in numerous jurisdictions. For this, we have well-coordinated teams," says Wolff.

Strong specialized practices

Baker McKenzie also boasts very strong specialized practices. Wolff sees the firm as a market leader in litigation. They are well-represented in labor law as well. "Clients appreciate this. They know we handle the transaction, and if there are issues afterward, we also take care of M&A disputes. Our lawyers oversee the entire project management for the client in one package."

Wolff labels the transaction involving Sika – the acquisition of the MBCC construction chemicals group for 5.3 billion euros by the Swiss company – as a "groundbreaking" mandate. Baker McKenzie advised Sika on completing the acquisition. Eighteen antitrust authorities in different countries were involved. The firm worked with six major antitrust authorities to create a coordinated global timetable to address competition concerns and sell the competition-critical MBCC business with concrete additives to the private equity firm Cinven. "We are very proud of this, especially since the mandate was managed from Germany."

Client service is not confined to the German market. Many global players, both in the DAX and in the larger medium-sized sector, require consulting beyond borders.

Steady growth

In Germany, the firm's revenue reportedly increased by 14% to 209 million euros, according to the legal industry service Juve. "We have steadily grown in Germany in recent years." The full-service approach creates stable growth, even if certain areas experience temporary weakness. The transaction business was a recent driver. In addition to the significant Sika mandate, Baker McKenzie, for example, advised Aurelius on the acquisition of the LSG Group, the catering division of Lufthansa. In the private equity segment, Baker wants to continue growing, even though the global transaction business is currently subdued. Instead, labor law is booming, especially as many companies are restructuring due to economic conditions. "The economy has a structural problem, and these issues will occupy us for a while." In labor law and litigation, the firm aims to further strengthen its personnel.

Digitalization, namely Legal Tech, also plays a significant role for the firm. Baker McKenzie collaborates with an Israeli company to globally implement artificial intelligence to automate processes. AI is used, for example, for due diligence in transactions but also in antitrust law, where it systematically captures regulatory decisions. In labor law, AI is used in the social selection process for operational terminations. In the area of compliance, Baker – together with two startups – has developed a tool for clients to capture and track their supply chains over time.

Focus on social mobility

Wolff expresses pride in a newer project of the HR department. The firm has developed a scholarship for equal opportunities. It is aimed at young people for whom an attractive professional career is not a given due to their social environment. "We cannot tap into potentials on the job market if we bypass the issue of social mobility," says Wolff. "We have many people with a migration background in the first generation who may not rise high enough because they simply do not know how to do it. Because they did not attend the right school or they lack the right coach. We take care of the children of migrants who want to achieve something but do not get the chance for advancement." Baker McKenzie offers a scholarship and coaching to these young people and supports them in networking. Currently, twenty young people are in the program. "We encounter extremely motivated young migrants with a strong desire for advancement," emphasizes Wolff.