UK and US firms are set to grab more than half of all Germany’s commercial legal work and a third of mainland Europe’s business law market within the next five years, according to a groundbreaking survey of 100 independent law firms. But despite the continuing expansion of Anglo-Saxon firms into their market, Europe’s domestic law firms are predicting strong growth of their own over the same period, especially in France and Italy.

These are the key findings of Legal Week’s inaugural survey of independent law firms in Europe, which suggests that domestic European firms are regaining confidence after the dramatic expansion of UK- and US-headquartered firms into their market over the last five years.

Just 19% of the respondents to the survey said they would consider a merger offer — with 100% of the respondents in Scandinavia, Iberia and France saying they will rebuff all approaches.

The firms also predicted significant fee earner growth over the next five years, ranging from highs of an average of 78% in France and 60% in Italy to the Benelux countries, whose firms predicted more modest growth, averaging 18%.

These growth predictions come despite an admission among the independents that their international rivals will build on the major inroads they have already made into their markets.
Asked to estimate the share of their market that foreign rivals had already grabbed, the average response across all mainland Europe’s key jurisdictions was 22%, a figure the respondents said would rise to 31% in five years.

There were, however, marked differences in the perceived penetration of the international firms across Europe — from a low of 12% in Scandinavia to a high of 40% in Germany, rising to a predicted 55% by 2008.

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