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🇨🇭 Swiss Verein: You can’t pick and choose


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If you take just one thing from this email…

Law firms operating under the Swiss Verein model (a structure where offices share branding but remain legally and financially independent) present themselves as a single, global firm to impress clients. But when problems arise, they emphasise that they’re separate entities. Law firms need to be conscious of the potential consequences of straddling the line between being one firm and a collection of separate entities at the same time.


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🇨🇭 Swiss Verein: You can’t pick and choose

What's going on here?

Baker McKenzie is being sued by a client after the firm’s former Russian office allegedly made some mistakes when handling their work.

The client’s suing Baker McKenzie in Illinois, US (where it’s headquartered) but the firm has been trying to get the case moved to the UK.

Why is the client suing Baker McKenzie?

The former client, a London-based company called Lehram Capital, had used the law firm to help it in a dispute relating to a coal mine in Russia.

The client accuses the firm’s Russian office of malpractice (when a lawyer’s mistake hurts a client’s case).

They allege that the lawyers filed a claim for them in the wrong court and introduced an affiliate businessman to a Russian criminal group, which put his life at risk.

Why is the lawsuit in the US?

Baker McKenzie is (and always has been) headquartered in Chicago, and that’s why Lehram filed this claim there.

But no lawyers from any American office were involved with this case — only lawyers from London and Moscow were involved.

That’s why Baker McKenzie tried to argue that, because of its Swiss Verein model, the case should be moved to London.

What is a Swiss Verein model?

Swiss Verein is the name given when a law firm shares branding between different offices but each office still remains legally and financially separate.

DLA Piper, Dentons and Norton Rose Fulbright also use the Swiss Verein model.

Although Baker McKenzie’s London office and New York office share the same firm name, they are legally separate entities — and that’s why they’re arguing that the US entity shouldn’t be involved here.

In a statement, Baker McKenzie said “The record demonstrates that resolution of this dispute in the adequate alternative forum of London, where witnesses and evidence reside (unlike Illinois), would better serve the needs of justice.“

Why were they not allowed to move the case to the UK?

The claimants, Lehram, argued that Baker McKenzie operates as a single, global entity. So bringing a claim in the US, where it’s headquartered, made sense.

The court in Illinois agreed. They said that they would be able to apply Russian law as effectively as a London court.

The Illinois court also mentioned that in Baker McKenzie’s own code of business, the firm says “We are one firm. What one of us does, all of us do” indicating that the network of Swiss Verein offices should be treated as one.

Why should law firms care?

The Swiss Verein model gives law firms many benefits.

It lets them:

  • 🚀 expand quickly (with little risk),

  • 🤝 refer work to each other (generating more fees), and

  • ✨ benefit from shared branding (making it easier to build a reputation).

Swiss Verein law firms impress clients with how many offices they have across the globe, making it sound like one massive firm.

But as soon as there are problems, like financial difficulties or malpractice lawsuits, they try to argue that the offices are actually separate.

Cases like the Baker McKenzie one aren’t a one-off — over time, Swiss Verein firms will have to confront the fact that they can’t pick and choose whether they’re separate or united.

If clients believe you’re a single, global legal adviser (because that’s what you tell them), then don’t be surprised if a court treats you the same way!


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  • 🏢 Law firm BCLP has teamed up with proptech company Orbital Witness to create an AI lease reporting tool named FLARE. Despite the AI doing a lot of the work, the firm says lawyers still need to look over the leases themselves. This tool is meant to make lease reporting 25% quicker.

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  • 👩‍⚖️ The US Supreme Court is all set to tackle a monumental decision impacting free speech on social media. The case follows laws that have been enacted in Florida and Texas which ban platforms like Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and X from deleting content based on political viewpoints. Essentially, the Supreme Court needs to decide whether these platforms are more like newspapers, with the freedom to curate content, or like public utilities like phone companies, required to carry all speech. The court's ruling could completely redefine the landscape of online freedom of expression.

  • 📈 Nvidia’s quarterly results were way better than expected, indicating that demand for AI just keeps getting stronger. Nvidia creates the computer chips which power AI functions. In the last year, the company’s sales have tripled, and they made $22.1bn (£17.5bn) in the fourth quarter alone. After the announcement, the company’s shares jumped 15% making it the third-most-valuable US company.


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