As a founder of one of the two merged firms, Michael Siebold now acts as one of the managing partners of Arnecke Sibeth, an independent full service firm based in Germany. Michael’s key responsibilities in managing the firm include HR and PR while, as a lawyer, he is mainly involved in infrastructure projects and corporate transactions that are almost exclusively cross-border.
Could you tell us a bit about your career path?
Following my clerkship (‘Referendariat’) in Munich, I did my LL.M. at the University of Toronto, followed by some practical working experience in Canada before relocating to Germany. I have always been very business and commercially orientated. In 1989, I found the firm that today, after mergers in 2000 and 2015, is now Arnecke Sibeth. I embarked on this journey with one associate, who quickly became a partner and remains a pillar of our firm to this day. As a firm, we soon specialized in transportation, aviation and logistics as an industry; and developed that practice to become one of the leading practices in that area. We now offer a full range of corporate legal services, to a range of industries and sectors.
What are Arnecke Sibeth’s top priorities towards its clients? How have these evolved over the years?
Two priorities stand out, from the many that I could mention: Truly adding value to our clients’ businesses and fair, intelligent, value-add based pricing. One of the key ways we look to add value to our clients is through our membership of elite global legal network Interlaw. Our affiliation with this network of more than 7,000 expert lawyers around the world means that we can easily and safely recommend legal advisers to our increasing client base, which looks to work internationally. We are also able to project manage multi-jurisdictional projects on behalf of our clients, providing one point of contact and one invoice for cross-jurisdictional deals or cases.
Additionally, with digitalisation being an increasing focus, some services, traditionally provided by lawyers, are expected to soon be commoditised. As a result, we are constantly evolving the products that Arnecke Sibeth offers and the skills that our lawyers have, so the advice and services we provide truly add value to our clients’ businesses. Simultaneously, hourly billing has been replaced by value-add based schemes, where a client pays on the basis of the value our law firm brings to their business or a transaction, rather than on the time spent working on the particular case.
You are also the Chairman of the global legal network of independent law firms worldwide called Interlaw– could you tell us a bit more about the organization and your involvement in it?
Indeed, I have had the privilege to serve as Chairman of Interlaw for five years so far and, together with an experienced international board and a lean but truly excellent staff, to steer the business of one of the most innovative international legal platforms. Based on personal relationships, often including decades-long friendships, Interlaw provides a platform where leading lawyers can cooperate seamlessly for the benefit of their clients, while being able to offer bespoke on-the-ground expertise in each jurisdiction.
Through our selective due diligence and ongoing quality monitoring system, we ensure that we attract the best independent law firms in the jurisdictions where we have a presence. What sets Interlaw members apart is the mindset of going the extra mile for a fellow member firm’s clients. This differentiates us from many other traditional networks, multi-national firms and other organizations. Unlike what is often experienced when dealing with international law firms, as Interlaw members genuinely value working with each other, there is no infighting at any level; simply great service at fair market prices. For Arnecke Sibeth and our clients, being a member of the network has opened doors to many new opportunities.
With your background as a common lawyer for a while in Canada in the mid-80s, you are often invited to speak on the relationship between Canada and Germany – what are the hottest topics being discussed in regards to this?
Canada and Germany, combined in their mutually shared views on almost all major political issues, are both working hard these days to make CETA a success on both sides of the pond. Poor communication and lack of information prevail where CETA is faced with skepticism, and this is the aspect that we are trying to assists with. Obviously, Brexit in whichever form, as well as future developments within the EU and the Eurozone remain hot topics on the Canadian-German agenda.
What lies on the horizon for you and Arnecke Sibeth in the near future?
We are well on our journey to becoming a truly national player in Germany, but will be filling some geographical gaps in order to wholly achieve this, namely in Hamburg and the Dusseldorf/Cologne area, where we are currently looking for suitable candidates. At the same time, we look to continue strengthening our base in core legal areas in the industries we focus on.
We plan to work hard toward marketing our service more than ever, through the in-depth knowledge of the industries and sectors that our clients work within. Matching the demand in a more digital world in the future will be a further task. As a response to this, we have a team led by young ‘digital native’ partners who work on solutions both for the firm and, more importantly, for our clients.