Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) is bolstering its Brussels office with the addition of an Allen & Overy (A&O) counsel as a five-lawyer team prepares to defect to Herbert Smith best friend Stibbe.
A&O counsel Véronique Vanden Acker is joining FFW as a partner to launch a public administration practice and will bring associate Emilie Dumortier with her.
Meanwhile, pensions partner Corinne Merla is heading to Stibbe along with a team of four associates.
According to Brussels managing partner Eric Cusas, the hire of Vanden Acker is reflective of the office’s strategy of emulating the firm’s London practice.
“We started our office in 2007, wanting to mirror the five pillars of our London office, and certainly regulatory is one of them,” said Cusas.
“She [Vanden Acker] is a huge asset for us, on the one hand focusing on public regulatory law, which is an important practice for completing our full service office, but also adding to the broader administrative law practice with PPP structures and public procurement contracts.”
The appointment of Vanden Acker closely follows the arrival of A&O IP associate Stijn Debaene, who joined FFW as a partner, and associate Hakim Haouideg in September.
“IP and administrative law are not core practices for Allen & Overy, but they are very important for us. So maybe what isn’t good for Allen & Overy is good for us,” said Cusas, whose former firm Loeff Claeys Verbeke merged with A&O in 2001.
That said, once Merla’s team departs for Stibbe, FFW will be left with no pensions capabilities in Brussels.
Merla, who will join Stibbe in February next year, said of the move: “The clients who’re looking for pensions support are major companies and these are the core clients of Stibbe.
“They’re working on major M&A and employment deals and they’re looking for pensions support.”
Stibbe’s Brussels managing partner Olivier Clevenbergh added: “The development of a dedicated pensions practice fits in perfectly with our full-service strategy, aimed at combining the specialist skills of various lawyers to offer clients top-notch expertise on every single aspect of this… area of the law, including employment law, financial law, tax law, corporate law and administrative law.”