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Norton Rose Brussels to be led by associates" />Norton Rose is moving to refocus its Brussels-based competition team as an associate-led practice in the wake of its second high-profile partner loss in 18 months.
Brussels managing partner John Cook is joining US firm O'Melveny & Myers as of counsel. He rejoins former colleague and previous office managing partner Riccardo Celli, who left for O'Melveny in May 2004.
The raids on Norton Rose mean that Jürgen Werner is now the only partner left in the firm's Belgium office. But Norton Rose chief executive Peter Martyr claimed that Cook's loss would not affect the developing assistant-focused strategy of making the Brussels office a "hub" for the firm's Continental European business. The strategy involves using Brussels as a centre for work coming from other European offices, particularly from Paris and London. Currently, senior associates with knowledge of regions where the firm does not have offices, such as Austria, Scandinavia and Spain, are also based in Brussels.
"We're in the process of changing the way Brussels relates to the Continental European business," said Martyr. "It gives us balance between the jurisdictions where we've got resident partners or associates."
Martyr added that he was not planning to "rush in" to recruiting partners to replace Celli and Cook, preferring instead to work with associates already at Norton Rose. Including Werner, there are currently 10 lawyers based in the firm's Brussels office.
"This strategy is going to make a lot of difference," claimed Martyr.
At O'Melveny, Cook will help to further the development of the office, as well as working closely with O'Melveny's London office to build a UK competition practice. Worldwide the firm has 70 competition lawyers, but has no partners or of counsel in the UK.
Celli said: "I'm delighted to continue to build O'Melveny & Myers' European antitrust practice with a world-leading competition lawyer of John Cook's calibre, a formidable colleague and a personal friend."