Tech, life sciences and IP specialist firm Bristows is set to open its doors in Brussels next year, marking the opening of its first-ever non-UK office.

Bristows competition partner Stephen Smith will lead the efforts out of the office, but around half a dozen partners are expected to use the office on a regular basis, primarily from the competition team.

This launch is the firm’s response to Brexit, with plans to set up an office 12 months before the end of the negotiations to guarantee clients EU advice.

Bristows co-managing partner Marek Petecki told The Lawyer: “We want to be clear to clients that we are able to represent them in EU matters regardless of what happens in Brexit negotiations. What the future holds regarding Brexit will determine how we use the office.”

As part of this Brexit plan, several partners have already become dual Irish qualified, and the firm will rely on a number of EU nationals from different jurisdictions that already work for the firm.

The launch, which is expected to happen in March 2018, will not impact the firm’s external network in Europe, Petecki confirmed. “This is absolutely not a departure from our international strategy, which is working with the best independent firms in the region.If anything, this will strengthen our relationships because we will be able to see them more.”