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US firm Crowell & Moring has hired a team from Belgian firm De Bauw & Maeyaert, prompting the technology and telecoms boutique to look for a merger partner.
Emmanuel Gybels and Thomas De Meese are the first partners to leave the Brussels boutique for an Anglo-Saxon firm since it was founded in 1996. They will join Crowell as partners, taking associates Kristof Roox and Frederik Van Remoortel with them. The hires follow a series of transactions in which Crowell worked jointly with the De Bauw team. Peter Teare, Crowell's London head, said: "A couple of years ago, we surveyed the Belgian legal market in order to identify the leading independent technology practice to service our clients' Belgian law requirements. Having worked together on several transactions, we found that Emmanuel and Thomas were not only very good lawyers, but they also shared our philosophy regarding the importance of responsiveness and client focus." Gybels said: "It is our opinion that it's only possible to service clients at the best level with international capability and expertise. "The move gives us an opportunity both to expand our existing practice in an international dimension and to offer Belgian law advice to a group of exciting new clients." The move will leave De Bauw with just two partners and eight other lawyers. The situation has already prompted its founding partners to start looking for a merger. Herman De Bauw, one of the founding partners, said: "These departures leave us with a problem. We have too much work. We have three or four lawyers starting later in the year, but at a junior level, so we're now talking to some candidates with whom we might merge. "We consider ourselves a Belgian law firm and we're talking to other Belgian firms. We're being pretty selective and talking to an extremely limited number of firms. The negotiations are in the very early stages."