Clifford Chance offers one-stop EC dispute shop

Clifford Chance is offering clients a one-stop shop for competition disputes with the European Commission.

The move is the brainchild of Chris Bright, the partner poached by Clifford Chance from rivals Linklaters.

The multidisciplinary teams are made up of lawyers, economists and public affairs consultants who handle all aspects of transactions that have fallen foul of the EU's regulators.

Bright, head of competition at Clifford Chance, says: “You get a client coming in and they have gone to phase two in a merger-acquisition case.

“They have got there unexpectedly and have been using inexperienced advisers and are in a state of crisis [because the Commission has intervened].”

Bright says competition disputes have moved away from using strictly legal ideas about what is anti-competitive to require “serious economic evidence” in support of a merger, as well as political persuasion to drive it through.

“We would offer ourselves as a multidisciplinary team with a project manager.

“People are very much in the mind-set of a legal job to be done and there are jobs to be done by other people.

“We are saying there is one job here – handling government – and there are multiple facets to that.”

Bright says the idea started out as a service to offer in a crisis.

“But we have now got people who know each other, and we go in and we are proactively offering ourselves as a more rounded service to produce the result they want.”

The firm is using the approach on about six cases between London and Brussels, he says.

“If you are dealing with the EC there are 15 member states sitting around watching it who know what's happening in the process, and you can use this panoply of information to go in and discover the right message.”

See analysis pages 10-11