JUVE Law Firm of the year

Employment

Abundance of restructuring work despite booming job market

The economy is flourishing and Germany is witnessing almost full employment. So it sounds paradoxical when employment lawyers across the board report growing demand for restructuring advice. However, only in the rarest of cases are these reshuffles related to crises; rather, companies are reviewing their setups for operational reasons, and before they feel any financial constraints.

Once again, the legislators were very busy when it came to making employment relationships more flexible: after multiple amendments, the first draft bill on the regulation of temporary employment and service contracts finally found its way into the cabinet. This environment calls for experts in employment-related compliance whose forte is in reviewing external staff and the supply of temporary workers. Conflicts involving the protection of employee data are the order of the day here. This issue was fueled by the ECJ declaring the controversial Safe Harbor Agreement invalid. “Data protection is the new General Equal Treatment Act and antitrust law rolled into one,” lawyers prophesy, alluding to the fear of the now horrendous fines on which works councils increasingly base their arguments in negotiations. Individual disputes arising from data protection infringements were particularly frequent. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation announced for 2018 should bring more legal certainty.

Professionalization among boutiques continues

The growing complexity of legal issues opened up a new client group for those firms that have previously focused on advice to employers and managers: works councils. And when it comes to the new rules for company pensions or pay regulations, it is no longer the typical employee representatives stepping up to bat. “It is clear that general works councils are increasingly operating at eye level with the employers,” one lawyer explains. This makes employer advisors increasingly interesting as well. This raises the question all the more of whether, in the years to come, employee firms will only be conducting individual proceedings, or whether they will be able to use existing networks (some of which stretch across Germany) to step up specialization.

On the employer side, many boutiques took this path long ago by growing: Kliemt & Vollstädt, Altenburg and Vangard are represented virtually nationwide; after launching in Düsseldorf in 2015, Pusch Wahlig has now opened in Frankfurt. This setup gives the firm visibility, but above all the manpower to cover a broad spectrum of fields with specialist advice.

These boutiques’ highly specialized international networks – some of which enjoy excellent reputations in the US – are putting the established large international firms under pressure. A prime example is Littler Global, with whom Vangard has been working in cooperation since 2015. And many are watching the development of the US employment boutique Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart very closely. “We cannot sit back and rest on our networks,” warned one lawyer from a large international firm.

The firms featured in this chapter specialize in employment advice to companies as employers. An overview of firms specializing in advice to employees can be found in the table “Firms recommended for advice to works councils, trade unions and employees”.


PfeilJUVE Law Firm of the year