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US firm Covington & Burling has become the first firm to benefit from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s withdrawal from the Brussels market, taking on senior strategy adviser and Dutch politician Wim van Velzen.
Van Velzen, a former Dutch senator and MEP, will be a senior European policy adviser at Covington, working with clients on their strategy in Europe and EU policy. As was the case at Akin Gump, he will not be advising clients on legal matters.
Covington’s Brussels managing partner David Harfst said the attraction of having a European statesman on the team was strong: “Clients want the full package. We need to advance their interests but also offer advice on legislation. With Wim, we have a much deeper insight into the workings of the EU.”
Van Velzen’s arrival takes Covington’s Brussels headcount to 15, including five partners.
As reported today (12 January, www.thelawyer.com), Akin Gump has pulled out of Brussels to focus its attentions on its new Beijing office, claiming that the Brussels office was misaligned with the firm’s strategy of growth in energy, hedge funds and political lobbying.
The destination of van Velzen’s six Akin Gump colleagues in Brussels remains unclear. When the firm closed its Brussels office, there were two partners and five other fee-earners including van Velzen.
“Covington was on my wish list because of its reputation in Brussels,” van Velzen told The Lawyer. “The attraction for me, from an intellectual point of view, is that it will be a challenging environment. You have to really think how to help the clients.”