Michael Rosenthal and John ('Jack') Martin, Partners at Hunton & Williams

This article was written in July 2006.  Despite its age, Brussels Legal still finds its content relevant to Brussels' international legal community.

At the start of March Hunton & Williams announced the creation of its Brussels-based European competition law practice.

Brussels Legal spoke with the two newly-appointed partners developing this practice, Michael Rosenthal and John ('Jack') Martin.

We started by discussing their own reasons for joining Hunton's Brussels office.

BL: Why did you both decide to join Hunton & Williams?

MR: I was attracted by the challenges of both creating an EU competition law practice and helping develop Hunton & William's transatlantic antitrust profile. I have qualified and practised in both Europe and the US and so this transatlantic aspect has a strong appeal for me.

JM: For me too the challenge of building an integrated, transatlantic practice is the main attraction. Although in my case I am rejoining - rather than joining - Hunton & Williams. I worked here until 2003 and then went to work at the FTC as senior litigation counsel. For the past six months I have been a visiting Fulbright lecturer at the University of Toulouse.

That background means I already know a lot about Hunton & Williams, its antitrust practice and am determined to help build the foundations of the practice in Europe. I can see the tremendous potential for the internationalisation of our antitrust practice.

BL: Why did Hunton & Williams decide now was the time to develop a European competition law practice?

JM: The timing of this development is largely due to Hewitt ('Hew') Pate's return to Hunton as Head of the Competition Practice Group in 2005.

Previously Hew was the Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust at the Department of Justice. In that position - particularly with his involvement in the ICN - Hew saw firsthand the importance today of a truly integrated transatlantic antitrust practice. Such a practice is needed for a law firm to properly serve its clients' competition law needs.

Hew has already deepened the US antitrust practice - recruiting 4 former Supreme Court clerks at associate level plus 3 senior officials from the FTC and 2 senior antitrust litigators from Clifford Chance - and is now developing the European competition practice.

Completing the Brussels part is critical to this plan. Hew spends a few days each month in Brussels helping develop the practice.

BL: You are both now in the process of building-up Hunton's European competition practice. Will the practice deal with all aspects of European competition law from the start or will it initially have a more limited focus?

MR: The European competition practice will deal with all areas of European competition law. I have experience in Article 81 and 82 EC, merger control at the EU and national level and litigating before the CFI. Certainly our practice will deal with all competition issues.

BL: But do you have the existing capacity and capability to meet all your clients' European competition law needs? If not, what are your plans to meet those needs?

MR: A transatlantic practice like ours has the benefit of experienced antitrust lawyers - based in Europe and North America - available across different time zones. In Brussels we can call upon the US part of the Competition Practice Group.

We are looking to recruit lawyers to the European competition practice, but not for the sake of reaching a certain size by a certain time. Our plan is to grow the practice organically; perhaps in 6-12 months time we will be 2 partners and 2-4 associates. We will take our time about growth as there is no particular pressure.

BL: On the subject of recruitment, what associate profile are you looking for?

MR: We are looking for associates with entrepreneurial flair and who enjoy working in a closely-integrated transatlantic practice. As part of the development of our transatlantic practice, we want to second European associates to our US antitrust practice and vice-versa. In that respect, European lawyers with US LL.Ms - having European and US academic experience - are interesting for us.

JM: The secondments are an integral part of the development of our transatlantic practice. We see them as a very important part of our practice integration.

BL: Given Hunton & Williams has not been known for its European competition law capabilities in the past, how can you convince actual or potential clients to instruct you on European competition law issues?

MR: Two sources of work are currently already clear. First, some existing US clients are interested in Hunton's European competition law capabilities. Client interest towards the firm generally and about Hew in particular shows we must respond by marketing our competition law capabilities.

Also as outside the US Hunton & Williams' corporate activities are not so extensive, some law firms in Europe are interested in making referrals to us for European competition law work.

BL: In recent years other US law firms have developed their Brussels-based EU competition practices, have you learned anything from their start-up experiences?

MR: Yes: start small and grow with the right people at the right pace. We are looking to grow the practice organically by picking the right individuals and developing their experience and skills. We prefer to grow the practice internally.

When a large group of lawyers from one firm is absorbed into another firm there are cultural differences that have to be reconciled.

BL: In 5 years time, where do you think your European competition practice will be?

MR: Difficult question! Probably 'small, but beautiful'! We will be working on high-end work, not doing the 'volume' competition law work like some of our competitors.

BL: Good luck and thank you for your time.

Related feature:

Robert Klotz, Partner at Hunton & Williams

Other features dealing with related issues:

Andreas Weitbrecht, Office Managing Partner, and Jean Paul Poitras, Partner, of Latham & Watkins in Brussels

William Baer and Marleen Van Kerckhove, Partners of Arnold & Porter in Brussels

Trevor Soames, Managing Partner of Howrey LLP in Brussels

Richard Weiner, Maurits Lugard and Stephen Kinsella, Partners in Sidley Austin

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