De Brauw taskforce seeks US friendships

Dutch firm De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek has set up a taskforce to re-establish referral relationships with AMLaw 100 firms following the collapse of its alliance with Linklaters. High-profile litigator Peter Wakkie has spent two months in the US forging new links.

Managing partner Jaap de Keijzer, New York partner Rutger de Witt Wijnen and several tax partners were also involved in the initiative, which took in firms including Cravath Swaine & Moore, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, Sullivan & Cromwell, Debevoise & Plimpton and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. Partners at each of those firms said they were happy to work with De Brauw and a secondment programme has already been set up with Cravath in New York.

De Keijzer commented: “The next wave of industry consolidation in Europe will be dominated by American players, whether it's corporates, investment banks or law firms.”

Cleary Gottlieb's managing partner Peter Karasz said: “Obviously, we want to use firms that we feel upbeat about. De Brauw is definitely one of those firms.”

A Sullivan & Cromwell source said: “We do prefer to work with independent firms, though certainly we have a very close relationship with Linklaters in the UK.”

Referrals with other firms took a back seat while De Brauw was tied to Linklaters, but the turbulent relationship was scuppered in April 2002, when the Dutch partners voted almost unanimously against merging. The Lawyer can now reveal that Linklaters subsequently made offers to around 10 De Brauw partners. To date, none have gone over, but two intellectual property and patents partners have just joined Howrey Simon Arnold & White for its Dutch launch.

De Brauw has also ramped up its presence in the UK. Structured finance partner Niek Biegman moved to De Brauw's London office late last year. UK relationships include Slaughter and May.