Arnold & Porter expands in Brussels

Arnold & Porter has continued its assault on the Brussels market with the hire of five lawyers to its competition team.

The associates join the firm’s four Brussels partners, taking to nine the number of lawyers in the office.

The Washington DC-based firm launched its Brussels outpost in August 2003 with the hire of the highly rated Clifford Chance partner Marleen Van Kerckhove.

The move led to speculation in the market about the fate of Kerckhove’s existing clients Pfizer Pharmacia and Philip Morris, as well as Clifford Chance’s key antitrust client General Electric, with whom it was thought to have a cast-iron relationship.

Arnold & Porter’s Brussels office now acts regularly for General Electric, most notably, advising on last year’s merger of NBC with Universal. Although the work flowed from the firm’s US offices, Kerckhove said: “The GE relationship is very strong in the States, but the client was still confident enough in our ability to use us in Brussels.”

The office is occupied largely with merger control work, as well as cartel advice and litigation before national courts and the European Commission. Pfizer Pharmacia and Philip Morris are now key clients.

Kerckhove said demand from clients was driving the firm’s expansion. “Strong interest from our clients encouraged us to expand quickly,” she said, adding: “We are looking to expand further, but have no name at this point in time.”