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As the centre of operations for the European Union (EU) Brussels has always been a hub for law firms wanting to provide regulatory and competition advice to their clients.
Many international firms have had offices there for a while, but a new trend is for US firms in particular to beef up their competition practices in Brussels - or start a new office.
This week Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati confirmed that it was opening up in Brussels with the hire of two partners from Hunton & Williams and another from Shearman & Sterling (see story).
Wilson Sonsini is primarily a US West Coast firm, specialising in technology. Its big clients include Google and Pixar. In its US and Asian offices it has a strong corporate and competition practice, but like others the firm is finding that the European Commission is becoming tougher in its competition judgments (see story).
The Brussels office will enable the firm to offer full antitrust advice on both sides of the Atlantic, provided its clients are happy to instruct it in Europe. A potential snag, for instance, is that US rival Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton has handled Google’s EU competition work for years and may well hold on to those instructions.
Other firms trying to expand their Brussels presence include Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, which opened in the city earlier this year with the hire of Linklaters partner Alec Burnside. Burnside, managing Cadwalader’s office, has declared his intention to expand.
Linklaters was also hit more recently by the news that its Belgian antitrust head Johan Ysewyn has left for Clifford Chance (see story).
K&L Gates has also hired in Brussels, picking up a partner from McKenna Long & Aldridge. And European firms have been at it too. Dutch independent De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek hired back its former managing partner, who has been on the management board at the Netherlands Competition Authority for the past two years (see story).
As the world becomes ever-more international competition law is likely to remain at the top of the agenda. The hiring spree currently underway in Brussels will last for some time.