Deloittes replaces European legal head

Top five accountant Deloitte & Touche is shaking up its European legal provision following the departure of Jean-Bernard Thomas earlier this year.

Bert Heikens, senior partner of Deloitte’s affiliated Dutch law firm AKD Prinsen van Wijmen, is to become European leader for the global legal services practice.

Heikens replaces former incumbent Thomas, who has become a Denton Salès Vincent & Thomas partner, following the merger of Denton Wilde Sapte, Salès Vincent & Associés and Deloitte’s affiliated French firm Thomas & Associés earlier this year (The Lawyer, 5 June).

One of Heikens’ first roles will be to organise Deloitte’s legal focus into six specific areas: corporate M&A, employment, e-business and intellectual property (IP), European and competition law, public law and commercial.

He says: “Our organisation harbours a wealth of legal experience and specific expertise, but often we are simply not aware of it.

“My first task is to give everyone access to the available legal knowledge and to encourage the sharing of best practices.”

Heikens’ appointment is part of a general strengthening of Deloitte’s European legal provision.

The accountant was rocked when four partners, including name partner Thomas, quit Thomas & Associés. The two firms had been associated since 1997, and although some partners remained under the Deloitte umbrella, they were not able to practise under the Thomas & Associés name.

But later in the summer Deloitte & Touche Juridique hooked up with French firm Poitrinial & Associés. The move boosted its M&A coverage and increased the number of lawyers to 40 (The Lawyer, 26 June).

Deloittes has been significantly building up its Dutch legal capabilities during the past couple of years. Prinsen van der Putt was its second allied Dutch firm, joining the group in August 1998.

It then merged with Deloitte’s existing Holland practice Van Anken Knuppe Damstra in January 1999. But the firm has continued growing since the initial hook-up, its most recent merger being with Van Wijmen Nouwen, which created the current practice.

Deloittes has recently been attempting to bolster its global standing. Earlier this year, it was in talks with Australian law firm Deacons, but was pipped at the post by another Australian practice, Dunhill Madden Butler (The Lawyer, 12 June).

Deloittes is still the only big accountant not to have a branded legal arm in the UK.