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Is a new wave of U.S. law firms about to hit Brussels? It’s looking that way, with a major new entrant and some significant partner poaching elsewhere in recent months. On June 17 Washington, D.C.’s Howrey Simon Arnold & White launched its 20-lawyer competition and litigation practice. The requisite big guns include a former senior competition partner in the Brussels office of London’s Norton Rose, Trevor Soames, and two former high-ranking officials at the European Commission’s antitrust enforcement arm, Julian Joshua (who arrives after a brief interlude at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius’ Brussels office) and David Wood. On the same day, D.C.’s Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering announced that its Brussels office had brought on board three partners from Amsterdam’s Stibbe, filling the vacancies left when three jumped ship to launch Latham & Watkins’ Brussels office this spring. Howrey Simon’s arrival has been in the works for some time. The firm was making overtures to potential recruits as far back as 2000. And even in the absence of an office, the firm played key roles in the European aspects of GE/Honeywell, WorldCom/Sprint and Boeing/McDonnell Douglas. Launching the new Howrey office wasn’t headache-free. Norton Rose was sore about seeing Soames go. After discussing the matter with his managing partner, Soames was immediately shown out of the building and given eight months’ “gardening leave” (an obligation to refrain from working for a period before taking up partnership at a new firm). All of which left the flamboyant Soames a little disappointed: “It would have been nice if they’d said, ‘Good luck in your new career, Trevor, we’re sorry to see you go.’” But, he hastens to add, the two firms are now working with each other, and relations have significantly improved. Hiring former regulators has its own set of complications. While at Morgan Lewis, Joshua was effectively conflicted out of almost all of the firm’s ongoing cases — because they were cases he’d initiated at the tail end of his 27 years at the EC’s Directorate-General for Competition (DG Comp). “I’d worked on the vitamins case, Sotheby’s/Christies, methionine, graphite electrodes,” he says. The list goes on. Some of the conflicts have yet to be worked out. Wood, who joins Howrey straight from DG Comp, faces similar constraints for now. Other good Brussels lawyers can expect renewed popularity. One 10-year Brussels veteran at Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw observes contentedly: “I’ve never been approached by so many firms as in the past year.” The departures of Wood and Joshua suggest that a revolving-door culture may yet develop in Brussels. But any firms thinking that lawyers will easily be plucked from DG Comp should think again. “I really don’t think many will want to leave,” says an insider. “They’re committed, morale is higher than anywhere else in the EC, and they’re even quite nicely paid now.” That only makes the market better for those hopping from firm to firm. But why is that market so hot at this particular moment? In part, it’s a residual effect of when the EC in July 2001 blocked the GE/Honeywell merger. Even though another proposed merger — of Airtours and First Choice Holidays plc — was ruled invalid by an EC court in June, the continuing cooperation between DG Comp and the U.S. Department of Justice adds to the alarm call that general counsel hear. Brussels-savvy lawyers suspect that there’ll be more lateral moves soon. Says one: “Several U.S. firms are sniffing around for talent.” As Howrey Simon can attest, recruiting talent takes time. Watch this space. Related chart: The Brussels Shuffle

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