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Late to the party: Reed Smith hires partners from five firms for Brussels launch

Reed Smith has opened its fifth European office in Brussels, following the hire of five partners to the firm’s corporate group.

The partners all come from different firms, and will be joined by two associates and one counsel. The partners focus on competition/antitrust, with Brussels long being a hub for international firms’ competition work.

‘It could easily be argued we should have been in Brussels previously,’ Reed Smith’s managing partner for Europe & Middle East Tamara Box told Legal Business. ‘But realistically you have to follow client demand, and the demand has been for more presence in competition and antitrust but also regulatory and trade.’

The partners include EU competition lawyers Christian Filippitsch (formerly of Norton Rose Fulbright), Geert Goeteyn (formerly of Shearman & Sterling) and Isabelle Rahman (formerly of Sheppard Mullin); trade remedy and investigations lawyer Yves Melin (formerly of Steptoe & Johnson); and EU regulatory lawyer Wim Vandenberghe (formerly of Deloitte Legal). The firm will now focus on hiring associates to support the new partners.

Reed Smith opened its first European office in Paris in 2005, while the latest launch prior to the Brussels office was in Frankfurt in 2015. The firm now counts five offices in Europe and 30 globally.

The launch comes with competition law set to be reshaped in light of Brexit, as the UK’s leaving of the bloc takes the country out of the European Commission’s competition directorate’s jurisdiction.

Since the referendum, US tech leader Cooley, London intellectual property and technology specialist Bristows, Macfarlanes and Wall Street firm Sullivan & Cromwell have all opened in Brussels. Others, meanwhile, have expanded their local competition practices in the city. The renewed focus comes as several rulings from the European Commission in recent years have propelled competition law up the agenda, such as the veto to the merger between German and French train manufacturers Siemens and Alstom, and multibillion-euro fines on tech giant Google.

‘Brexit is just one of the things, there is also Trump and it’s all going in the same direction,’ Melin added. ‘International trade is becoming more difficult, entering the European market is becoming more difficult. The current environment is actually strengthening the European Union, it’s making Brussels more significant.’

For more on the Brussels legal market, read ‘Letter from… Brussels