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Wragge & Co is opening an office in Brussels as part of a major expansion of its EU/competition practice. The office opens today (Monday).
Head of the firm's EU/ competition team Guy Lougher will divide his time between Birmingham and Brussels, while EU specialist solicitor Jason Phelps will relocate to Brussels.
The expansion is client-driven, says managing partner Quentin Poole, and will provide support to the firm's existing EU competition practice based in Birmingham. "Clients want us to be closer to the corridors of power in Brussels," he says. "We need to be part of the grapevine."
The firm previously had a single office. Now its clients include companies in Birmingham and international operations such as communications giant AT&T, says Poole.
As well as practising European law, Phelps's role will be to build contacts at the European Commission, says Poole.
This will enable Wragge & Co to warn its clients about forthcoming legislation and offer early advice.
He says the expansion is consistent with the firm's overall strategy of remaining a Birmingham firm. "We are not advising clients in Brussels on Brussels law," he says.
Since Lougher's arrival from Allen & Overy in 1994, the EU/competition team has grown from two lawyers to seven.
Poole says that the practice has doubled in size every year in terms of fees billed and the number of lawyers.
The EU/competition team has developed from giving support on corporate transactions to becoming a niche practice in its own right, says Poole.
The practice will recruit another partner and three more associates soon, he adds.
Lougher says: "Building up the team in Birmingham has given us the foundation we needed in order to expand this niche practice into Brussels.
"The fact is that clients, especially large and international ones, want us closer to the institutions in Europe's legal capital."
Poole says the office will also support Wragge & Co's IP, commercial, employment and pensions teams in Birmingham.