Wilmer Cutler negates Brussels losses with star hire

The Brussels office of Wilmer Cutler & Pickering has bounced back from last month’s partner losses with an impressive senior appointment

The firm has taken on former head of the EU Competition Directorate and chairman of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) appeals tribunal Professor Ehlerman.
The former WTO man joined the firm’s Brussels office as counsel on 1 March. Ehlerman was personally recruited by Wilmer’s Eur-opean senior partner Dieter Lange, who described him as “one of the trophies of EU merger law”.
Ehlerman served as the director general of the European Commission’s legal service for 10 years, before leaving for the Competition Directorate. This was a key civil service position because Ehlerman was the only non-politician to sit in on commission meetings.
Wilmer Cutler tried to recruit him at this stage, but he stayed in the directorate general position for five years, during which time he set up the mergers task force. In 1995, Ehlerman left Brussels to become the chairman of the WTO appellate body, which hears appeals from the WTO’s dispute panel.
Several Brussels law firms have consultancy agreements with high-profile EU political figures, including Herbert Smith, which uses former commissioner Sir Leon Brittain. While Ehlerman does not have the political profile of Brittain, his legal and academic expertise make him an excellent catch for Wilmer Cutler.
According to Lange, the new recruit will be involved in individual cases. His experience will be particularly valuable in the mammoth trade dispute over steel dumping that has just erupted between the US and the EU. Wilmer Cutler has several EU steel companies on its books and according to Lange the firm expects to be involved when the anti-dumping dispute is brought before the WTO.
Last month, four Wilmer Cutler competition partners – two from London and two from Brussels – defected for the new Brussels office of US West Coast firm Latham & Watkins. The loss of Marc Hansen, John Kallaugher, Andreas Weibrecht and Jean Paul Poitras was a blow, but Lange said that a firm of Wilmer Cutler size could cope with such a loss.