Clifford Chance hires EC heavyweight for regulatory push

Clifford Chance hires EC heavyweight for regulatory push” />Clifford Chance clients will be able to tap into expert advice on a range of European policies following the hire of the former director general of the European Commission’s legal service.

Michel Petite, who led the EC’s legal service from 2001, joins the firm this month to advise on European legislation as well as international commercial law and litigation at the World Trade Organisation court.

Clifford Chance managing partner David Childs said: “In recent years we have seen a major increase in demand from global clients seeking guidance on how best to work within the EU framework to achieve their commercial objectives in Europe. Michel’s experience will be invaluable in providing advice to these clients.”

Simon Baxter, head of the firm’s European competition and regulation group, added that, as it is unusual for an EC legal service head to move into private practice, his addition is a great opportunity for the firm.

“He is an experienced and highly respected Commission official who will bring significant insights for our clients into all areas of European Commission policy,” he said.

Petite has spent almost three decades working at the European Commission, joining in 1979 and working under Commission presidents Jacques Delors, Romano Prodi and Jose Manuel Barroso. In 1990 he was appointed head of the unit for the control of mergers, after adoption of the EU’s merger regulation, and later director for state aid.

In his role as director general of the legal service Petite has been involved in the negotiation and drafting of the Amsterdam Treaty.

Petite said: “A global law firm of the stature of Clifford Chance offers me the ideal platform for the next phase of my career outside the Commission. I am looking forward to being of service to their global clients, providing advice on how to work most productively within the legal and regulatory structures of the EU.”

Having been based in Brussels during his time at the Commission, Petite joins Clifford Chance’s Paris office, although the role is a global one.

It is understood that Petite is only the second EC legal service head to move into private practice. Claus-Dieter Ehlermann, who was director general in the 1980s, moved to WilmerHale on retiring from the Commission, though he had already stood down from the legal service.