US firm Wilmer Cutler & Pickering has raided the Brussels office of Herbert Smith's best friend Stibbe, taking three partners from the Benelux firm's competition team. The raid gives new impetus to Wilmer's competition and trade team, which was hit by the loss of four partners to Latham & Watkins this February. The three partners - Marco Bronckers, Yves van Gerven and Frederic Louis - are still negotiating with Stibbe over when they can join the US firm. Bronckers, a World Trade Organization (WTO) and trade law specialist, will work closely with former WTO chairman professor Claus Dieter Ehlermann, who joined Wilmer in May. Louis is a competition law specialist and an EU litigator and van Gerven covers EU and Belgian domestic competition law. The decision to hire Bronckers and Ehlerman gives Wilmer a renewed trade focus as the team that departed for Latham had a primarily competition-based practice. Bronckers said: "My move reflects what clients really want. Until now I haven't been able to provide a seamless service, but now I can do that with people at the top of the bill." He added: "At Wilmer, we will have a central link with Washington which is crucial because Washington and Brussels are the two poles in a globalising world." Stibbe is left with just one competition lawyer, Peter Wytinck, in Brussels, although the firm has a further five in Amsterdam. Wytinck said: "We were already looking for additional recruits, clearly we will have to increase the speed and scope of the search." He said that the firm will use the competition lawyers of alliance partners Herbert Smith and Gleiss Lutz where necessary.