Legal Business Blogs

Willkie Farr takes top KWM biller to launch competition practice in the City

King and Wood Mallesons (KWM) has lost another heavy-hitter as competition partner Philipp Girardet exits the firm to set up Willkie Farr & Gallagher‘s London competition practice.

Girardet, who will join with a team including associate Rahul Saha, advises on a broad range of EU and UK competition law, competition litigation and regulatory issues. Girardet will be a significant loss for the legacy SJ Berwin partnership as he is understood to have been one the top 20 billers of the 2015/16 financial year.

Previously Girardet was the deputy director of the cartels branch of the UK competition authority for two years from 2005 and during his career has worked closely with the European Commission, the US Department of Justice and OECD Competition Section.

Girardet is the latest in a concerted push by Willkie Farr in its London office across the past 12 months with those partners making the jump to the New York-based firm including corporate partners Mark Fine from Bain Capital Credit where he was European general counsel and Andy Tromans from Clyde & Co.

Head of Willkie Farr’s European competition and antitrust practice Jacques-Philippe Gunther said: ‘The addition of Philipp, a highly respected UK-qualified competition practitioner, together with his team in London and in Brussels, is another major step in our strategy to develop a first class platform for complex European merger, investigation and litigation matters; it follows our recent hiring of a top German antitrust partner Suzanne Zuehlke last year.’

Law firms in the City have been gearing up for a slew of competition disputes following the introduction of US-style class actions in the UK late last year in the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan announced in July it is bringing a claim against MasterCard on behalf of UK consumers hit with ‘illegal’ credit and debit card charges in one of the first claims of its kind.

KWM also lost competition litigator Elaine Whiteford and litigator Greg Lascelles who both left for Covington & Burling in July. The firm has endured a string of exits during a turbulent 18 months after a restructuring in March, when 24 partners were asked to leave, brought about unintended consequences. The firm has since replaced its managing partner and senior partner for Europe.

For more on competition in the City see: ‘Less bark, more bite – competition to the fore as tougher enforcement arrives’