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A lateral move is like a divorce: Once you do it, you’re more likely to do it again. London antitrust star Christopher Bright is the latest example. Bright moved from Linklaters to Clifford Chance in 1999 to help Clifford Chance set up a separate department for competition law, as antitrust is called in Europe. Barely two years later, at the end of April, he broke out of the Magic Circle to join New York’s Shearman & Sterling in its London branch, but retained a role in one of the hottest antitrust cases of the day. Having been recruited to Clifford Chance before its 1999 merger with New York’s Rogers & Wells, Bright expected to receive the title of global competition law head. But when that title was given to Rogers & Wells rainmaker Kevin Arquit, Bright found himself merely the head of European competition law. Bright says the title confusion played little role in his decision to move again. “I was hired by Clifford Chance to organize a competition law practice in Europe, and to a large extent that job is done,” he says. “What Shearman offers me is a chance to build a first-class antitrust practice on the back of a first-class M&A practice.” Some of the merger deals that Bright will support may be negotiated by his Oxford neighbor Kenneth MacRitchie, the senior Shearman partner who helped to recruit him. MacRitchie is himself a Clifford Chance alumnus and lateral leapfrogger, having landed at Shearman more than four years ago after a stopover at New York-based Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. Shearman currently has two competition law partners in Germany. In addition to Bright, it would like to hire three or four new European antitrust partners, the goal being two in London, two in Germany, perhaps one in Paris, and two in a new Brussels office. Dusseldorf competition law partner Hans J�rgen Meyer-Lindemann plans to help set up the Brussels operation. Snagging Bright is all part of a broader expansion plan abroad. The new Brussels office is just one of three European offices set to open this summer, says David Heleniak, who took the helm at Shearman after longtime firm leader Stephen Volk announced in April that he would step down. (Volk will retire this year at age 65 under the firm’s retirement policy.) Heleniak says Brussels will be off and running with four to five lawyers by August. In addition, the firm will open its fourth German outpost with a 12-lawyer office in Munich, “the tech capital of Germany,” he says. Shearman also plans to march into Rome with more than a dozen lawyers to service the firm’s burgeoning public offering practice in Italy. “Now is a smart time to be in these places,” says Heleniak, who adds that Shearman also plans to grow its existing offices in Asia. So what about Clifford Chance? Bright’s defection leaves it with 24 competition law partners scattered around Europe, says the new chief of the firm’s European competition practice, Simon Baxter, who is based in Brussels. In contrast to Shearman, where the vast majority of antitrust work is generated by merger deals, Clifford Chance has a massive U.S. antitrust litigation practice, as well as a strength in European investigations. Baxter, for instance, is advising EMI Group on the European Union’s investigation of price-fixing in the music industry. Not that merger-related work isn’t important. Baxter says that mergers generated more than half of the firm’s antitrust work in the past few years. Indeed, Clifford Chance has been retained for European competition law advice by General Electric Company in its proposed acquisition of Honeywell International Inc., one of the most-watched antitrust cases across the Atlantic. So after the divorce, who gets to keep the GE-Honeywell matter? Shearman’s Bright and Clifford Chance’s Baxter will share custody of that one. Given the size of the deal, and the rising importance of European antitrust law, it’s a fair bet that both lawyers will have visiting rights on weekends.

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