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New York firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher has opened a Brussels office following a merger with boutique Belgian corporate practice Dieux & Associés
Willkie Farr already has offices in four EU countries including the UK, of which the Paris office is rated the most highly. The expansion into Belgium was driven primarily by a chance to capture Dieux & Associés name partner and M&A star Xavier Dieux. Dieux & Associés had a mainly M&A and finance practice, acting for European companies with Belgian offices and on cross-border transactions with a Belgian law component. The firm has worked with Willkie Farr's European offices for seven years and they already have many clients in common. Dieux has become a partner at Willkie Farr and two senior associates, Jean-Quentin De Cuyper and Didier Willermain, have become special European counsel; two other lawyers, Dimitri de Bournonville and Julie Gysens, will become associates at Willkie Farr. The merger took effect last month and Dieux & Associés now operates in Brussels as Willkie Farr & Gallager. Paris partner Daniel Hurstel has been appointed to oversee Willkie Farr's European expansion. "It wasn't so much the geographical location we wanted to add, but a top M&A team, which is just an hour and 20 minutes away from Paris," he said. "How-ever, although Belgium is a small market, there are great international companies in Brussels. Xavier is particularly well-connected in the Belgian market." Hurstel said the acquisition also fits into Willkie Farr's medium-term plans to have a competition team in Brussels. "We intend to have a competition team, so it makes a lot of sense to have an M&A team there too," he explained. "To have a local Belgian practice makes a lot of sense to me, even though it's not the way many other US and UK firms have gone."