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Go your own way: Lawyers at Covington & Burling and DLA Piper leave to launch boutiques

Having watched an increasing number of their peers depart during 2014 to launch boutique law firms, Covington & Burling‘s co-head of EU litigation and DLA Piper‘s former Middle East managing partner have quit their respective firms to set up their own boutiques.

Following last year’s launch of Three Crowns, which saw Covington & Burling’s co-head of international arbitration Gaetan Verhoosel depart to link up with three Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partners to create an arbitration shop, the firm has been hit by the exit of EU litigation co-chief Damien Geradin to launch a competition boutique.

Geradin, a partner in Covington’s Brussels office since December 2010, has set-up Edge: Legal Thinking in what he describes as an ‘EU competition law-specialized boutique law firm aiming to deliver independent legal advice of the highest quality to corporations, law firms and institutions’. He is the third big name competition partner to depart from a major firm in the last 12 months, with Clifford Chance’s former head of antitrust Oliver Bretz leaving the firm after 15 years to launch Euclid Law in London and Olivier Fréget, the former chief of Allen & Overy’s global antitrust group, resigning to launch Cabinet Fréget – Tasso de Panafieu in Paris.

Bretz put the exits down to an increasing amount of client conflict at major law firms following the rise in companies that have formed cartels to inflate the price of goods striking immunity deals with the European Commission in exchange for information on the other members.

Tim Hester, chair of Covington’s management committee said: ‘We recognize that this new chapter of his career will give him more flexibility to focus on his academic interests, and his writing and other interests, and we wish him all the best.’

Meanwhile, DLA Piper’s Kuwait managing partner Abdul Aziz Al-Yaqout has joined the boutique bandwagon by launching a Middle East firm with the former general counsel at private equity giant The Carlyle Group, Bader El-Jeaan. With acquisitions by private-equity firms in the Middle East and Africa having surged to $6.6bn in 2014, from $141m in 2013, according the Bloomberg, the duo have launched a bank finance and restructuring, capital markets and M&A boutique in Kuwait.

El-Jeaan and Al-Yaqout have launched Meysan Partners with five lawyers and have plans in place to have a 20-lawyer team in place by the end of 2015 and to have a network of offices across the Gulf by 2020.

Al Yaqout, senior partner, said: ‘We recognized a gap in the market for high-quality, regional legal advice, led by a senior team with in-depth experience advising clients in the Middle East.’

El-Jeaan added: ‘We have quickly established a strong and enviable client list in Kuwait and our plan is to grow the firm in the next five years so that we establish a network of offices around the region to further support our clients. In our growth strategy, we will however maintain a ratio of associates to partners that is significantly below that of other firms in the region, focusing on matters that require the experience of our partners, particularly on cross-border regional transactions and high-stakes commercial litigation.’