In a market as tough for laterals as Brussels, Riccardo Celli is not a bad hire for O’Melveny & Myers. Even more encouraging is that sources at the firm say he should be able to start in the next few weeks.

This is very different from what happened when former head of competition Trevor Soames handed in his notice in late 2001. He was initially put on a draconian nine months of gardening leave – as was Norton Rose’s entire acquisition finance team when it defected to Allen & Overy shortly afterwards.

Soames’ sentence was shortened later when Howrey Simon Arnold & White agreed to refer Norton Rose work in areas such as tax, where it has no European capacity.

The big question with Celli is whether he will take his clients, which include Honeywell International and AES Corporation. One Brussels rainmaker said: “No decent US firm would take a senior lateral competition lawyer without a book of work.” However, Soames offered a ray of hope for Norton Rose, saying: “I don’t think it will have a significant effect on the other competition partners, who in the main are excellent.”