Belgian competition lawyers in the line of US fire

Brussels-based competition lawyers are under siege, with a number of US firms aggressively looking to headhunt specialists in the field.

The Lawyer understands that US firms such as Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Howrey, Latham & Watkins and Weil Gotshal & Manges have been trying to recruit major players in the Brussels competition market. Names such as Clifford Chance‘s Simon Baxter and Linklaters‘ Gerwin Van Gerven are high on their hit list, but it is understood that poaching attempts have so far been fruitless.

The recruitment drive has been sparked by a boom in M&A throughout Europe along with a push among US firms to become transatlantic. One Brussels-based managing partner tells The Lawyer: “It’s a US invasion. It’s the second wave of US firms looking to increase their presences in Brussels and they’re looking for local lawyers.”

Slaughters says au revoir to Paris operation

So, it’s farewell (almost) to Slaughter and May Paris. The firm announced last week (12 December) that its 40-strong French office is to be merged into French best friend Bredin Prat. Just two partners, English solicitors Andrew McClean and Alexander Blackburn, will keep the Slaughters flag flying in a small representative office.

The question is, will anyone in Paris really notice that Slaughters has gone? The firm has a deservedly stellar reputation on this side of the Channel, but in France it’s a different matter. Most tend to forget the office is there: a senior partner in a US firm remarks that he couldn’t think of another Anglo-Saxon firm with such a low profile.

The merger makes sense for both firms: Slaughters loses any conflict with its best friend, while Bredin Prat picks up the finance expertise it lacks. If the Paris move works (the fallout is revealed on page 3), expect Slaughters to look east to its Hong Kong office next.

Christmas bonuses fail to raise a Christmas cheer

Finally we see some Christmas spirit from the US. Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett and White & Case have broken ranks to increase bonus rates just in time for the festive season.

But it is doubtful whether the increase will result in any shiny Porsches or Bulgari jewellery sitting under the Christmas tree. All four firms are to pay bonuses starting at $35,000 (£19,800) for first-year associates, increasing by an additional $5,000 (£2,800) per class year to $65,000 (£36,700) for eight year-qualified associates.

While this is an increase on previously announced bonus rates, the rise can only be described as marginal. Clifford Chance, Cravath Swaine & Moore, Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy and Sullivan & Cromwell are all offering static bonuses ranging from $30,000 (£17,000) to $60,000 (£33,900).

The champagne is more likely to be flowing on the West Coast, after Gibson Dunn & Crutcher announced that it would raise base salaries by $10,000 (£5,700) per class year, leaving total remuneration at the Los Angeles heavyweight biting at the heels of the New York elite.