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Editorial

Legal market overview

After a particularly strong year for M&A in 2015, 2016 was a little less lively in the German market. Although Brexit concerns put on hold some deals, the strong US and Chinese markets continued to stimulate inbound business and the domestic mid-market remained highly active; carve-out transactions have been increasingly common, with public takeovers and M&A disputes also on the rise.

The Volkswagen emissions scandal emerged as a particularly prominent matter that engaged many firms in the German market and sharpened the focus on the need for comprehensive compliance advice; several regulatory changes led to a high demand for advice from small to large companies, including, for instance, on the implementation of the European Market Abuse Directive. On the data protection front, the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union in May 2016 caused an enormous wave of legal advice in related compliance work.

Banking and finance practices continued to see a growth in regulatory mandates, reflecting the ongoing implementation or amendment of banking supervisory laws in reaction to the financial crisis. Meanwhile, low interest rates and the easing of credit standards by German banks have created a more animated credit market with high competition and many new players, including alternative capital providers such as insurance companies, pension funds and loan funds. Law firms with real estate financing expertise have benefited from the boom in real estate.

In contrast to the banking and financial markets, the capital markets proved to be rather volatile and stronger fluctuations are expected in the near future. Big news in 2016 was the announced merger of the London Stock Exchange and its German counterpart Deutsche Börse in Frankfurt. With the plan caught up in the Brexit crossfire and with European Commission investigations currently underway, it remains to be seen whether the deal will complete in 2017.

Frankfurt has in any case had an additional boost as a financial and legal centre due to the Europeanisation of banking supervision via the European Central Bank (ECB). Further potential growth in the city is expected by some in connection with Brexit, as global banks keep their eye on Frankfurt as an option for potential relocations of operations. Another city with interesting potential is Berlin, which is dominated by e-commerce businesses and has played a strong role in the maturing German venture capital scene – some market observers view it as the new start-up capital of Europe if London-based founders can be motivated to relocate.

The legal market is populated by a mix of high-quality German law firms and many international firms, particularly US or UK originated entities. The following text is a condensed translation and update of research from the German-language edition, The Legal 500 Deutschland (full German version available online at www.legal500.de).

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Legal Developments in Germany

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