The Leader Column

All that publicity about Carnival and no one has mentioned Latham & Wat-kins. It's obvious why Slaughter and May might stay quiet but why did Latham go along with it? Isn't the news that it's being brought in alongside Slaughters to advise Royal Caribbean on competition aspects in the highest profile deal around something to shout about?
Of course, it could be because of political sensitivities. But it's just as likely to be a result of Latham's Californian (read laid back) approach. This isn't to say that the firm isn't doing much – on the contrary, 2001 was its best year yet – but it does highlight its tendency to take a back seat when it comes to publicity.
So, to give the firm its due, it couldn't have had a better start in Brussels and a snapshot of the Belgium capital right now is likely to capture a number of green-eyed firms. With Latham's London and Brussels competition practices in their infancy, it gives some idea of what firms entering the market can achieve.
The fact that Shearman & Sterling – which also opened in Brussels in the past year – has a role alongside Herbert Smith advising Carnival strengthens the argument that competition is a seemingly easy area to break into. Cue all eyes to turn to Howrey Simon Arnold & White, which is the latest US firm to launch in Brussels with ex-Norton Rose competition partner Trevor Soames.
But what does the success of the new entrants mean for the old establishment? And is it a slight on Slaughters and Herbert Smith to be lead counsel as opposed to sole counsel? There are all sorts of arguments to cloud the significance but the fact remains that the cruise liners and/or their shareholders wanted additional advice.
It must be irksome. You can bet you wouldn't catch Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer's competition practice acting alongside a second firm. No more than you would normally find Slaughters as co-counsel for M&A.
So, what's the moral of the story? Perhaps to keep an eye on the ever-increasing number of US firms circling Brussels, which are already piling in thick and fast and by all accounts taking the Belgium market by storm.