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Howrey Simon Arnold & White has become the latest US firm to open up a Brussels office, and it is taking on key Norton Rose competition partner Trevor Soames to develop the practice.
Howrey has a leading antitrust practice in the US, and it is no doubt that is what lured Soames away from Norton Rose. The firm wants to do more than just service existing US clients and hopes to capture a piece of the EU antitrust market. The Brussels office is due to open in January, but if Howrey genuinely intends to have a serious presence, one or two more lateral hires of senior EU competition lawyers should be expected by Christmas. Although the firm has a good pedigree in Washington DC, cracking the Brussels market will not be easy, and Howrey will need to recruit quality lawyers without any delay in order to do so. It remains to be seen whether the wave of US firms pursuing capability in Brussels will ride out the economic downturn, but there is no shortage of other US firms considering Brussels. This is particularly the case in light of the GE-Honeywell decision, after which large US corporations want their lawyers to have a Brussels presence. However, with only around 35 top-level antitrust practitioners to choose from, it will be difficult for anyone to poach a leading competition lawyer. The gap left at Norton Rose's Brussels office will be filled by John Cook from the London competition practice, who will relocate. Martin Coleman, head of the firm's competition and regulatory group, said he was sorry to lose Soames, but added: "Our practice has been growing strongly and will continue to do so." Although the trend with competition work is for clients to follow their lawyers to new firms, Coleman said: "All the indications we have here are that this will not be a great issue."