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Slaughter and May senior partner Tim Clark is a cunning chap. On the face of it, he's presided over a firm that has shrunk its global reach over the past decade: it has closed in New York and downsized massively in Paris, transferring its French-qualified lawyers to Bredin Prat.
But behind the scenes, Clark has been embedding Slaughter and May's ties with its best friends on the Continent. As we reveal today (see story), the firm's Italian and German buddies are shacking up together; Bonelli Erede Pappalardo and Hengeler Mueller are moving in to 30 Cannon Street.
This comes just a week after The Lawyer reported that all five members of the European network - Slaughters, Bonelli and Hengeler, plus Bredin Prat and Spanish firm Uría & Menendez, were taking joint space in Brussels.
In any other firm this would be filed as a premises footnote. But the Brussels move represents proper planning on the part of the alliance - a strategy that extends into joint client teams and exchange of know-how.
Slaughters sources say that meetings with the Continental best friends aren't just conceptual discussions, so watch this space.
Slaughters has always found it difficult to grow, so the 'best friends' approach still represents the least disruptive way of creating an international offering for the moment. But only for the moment.