Clifford Chance is losing its head of communication and technologies to the Paris office of US law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher.
François Bloch and a team of four IT/telecoms lawyers are due to start at the Paris office before the end of the year.
The news comes as Willkie Farr is streng-thening its European IT practice by opening offices in Rome, Milan and Frankfurt later this month.
Bloch says he is moving because he has empathy with Willkie Farr’s strategy. “Its logic is based on client demands and needs,” he says. “Merger is not Willkie Farr’s preferred approach because it wants to focus on who participates, and that element of selection is difficult to get when you merge.”
Bloch’s experience includes telecoms, internet, e-commerce, entertainment, sports and media. He says Willkie Farr wants to recruit lawyers who can provide a service to a whole industry rather than to one particular practice area.
He says: “Some telecoms work is regulatory and commercial contracts but the rest is an industry. Willkie Farr’s idea is to have people who are able to deliver practical advice, irrespective of the area of law.”
At the time, Paris partner Daniel Urstel told The Lawyer: “We’re interested in expansion in Europe and we’re working hard on it.”
Clifford Chance acts for most French IT/telecoms clients including Nokia and is particularly active in e-commerce and business-to-business transactions.
But Bloch says he will not be taking clients with him. “I do not think this is right for the clients and my focus is on trying to deliver a better service.”
Bloch’s arrival comes just three months after telecoms specialist Thomas Heymann left Clifford Chance to set up Willkie Farr’s first German office (The Lawyer, 3 July).