27 January 2014
We are pleased to announce the opening of our office in Washington, DC!
Why DC? It is clear that the already strong links between Brussels and Washington, both governmental and commercial, are growing deeper and wider by the day. That being so, an increasing number of American law firms consider it essential that they be present in both markets.
So do we!
Given the way that we work, we feel that a presence in both jurisdictions will allow us to provide current and future clients with services that go far beyond mere recruitment, precisely the sort of thing for which we have become known in Brussels. Clients with whom we have discussed this expansion overwhelmingly agree!
Our aim is to help law firms looking to come to Brussels or to expand or enhance already existing operations. How? By exploring whether there is a business case sufficient to justify an office, helping determine what their goals are or should be, identifying the best and most appropriate lawyers to help them meet those goals, and providing a bit of strategic thinking, all the while offering an insider's view of the market.
Many American firms have come to Brussels through the years. Some of them have been successful (a few wildly so), while a few have fallen flat after an initial and sometimes high-profile splash. Some firms have Brussels offices that muddle along, underperforming and all but invisible, while, in the worst cases, some others have had to undertake embarrassing withdrawals from Brussels after long and painful (and at times highly visible) death spirals.
Many firms have relied on “CV mills” or “database recruiters” located in other jurisdictions to identify and recruit candidates for Brussels. We have on occasion shared our belief that this type of recruitment is a disservice to law firms and candidates alike (see, for example, Introducing . . . "Shotgun Sam" or our opinion about Fishing Expeditions). As I see it, one of the biggest problems is that these recruiters, while they may be leaders and experts in their home markets, have no first-hand knowledge of the Brussels market, its dynamics, or its peculiarities; that being so, they will usually turn to "Chambers", "Legal 500" or other such publications to compile a list of target candidates. These are great resources for providing the names and tidbits of information about lawyers in a given market, but they do not provide the sort of comprehensive picture (e.g., track records; reputations in the market; what their peers really think of them) that would allow a determination as to whether they would be suitable candidates for the law firm.
It could happen that a law firm may get lucky and “strike gold”, but history shows that it may very well end up with someone whose goals, ambitions and personality are simply not a match for the firm. When that happens, a thriving and sustainable Brussels presence becomes all but impossible.
Additionally, firms employing a broad-brush approach to recruiting Brussels lawyers risk losing credibility due to a perceived lack of focus or selectivity. People who are not here do not appreciate just how "clubby" the Brussels legal market is. Everyone knows (and talks to!) everyone else, and it does not take long before a candidate knows that the recruiter has called quite a few of his or her friends about the very same role. Few things will torpedo a firm's attractiveness for a potential candidate as the knowledge that he or she is just one in long, long list of lawyers who have been approached.
Finally, some firms have come to rue this type of recruitment as an exercise in futility. I am not exaggerating when I say that there are firms that have been trying for three, six, sometimes more than ten years to enter the Brussels market! Everyone here knows it, too, and they no longer take these firms seriously. Assertions such as, "This time we really, really mean it!", will carry very little weight, and all but the most desperate of lawyers will dismiss any approach from these firms.
So, in answer to the question "Why DC?", that's why. We want to help firms that may be considering establishing or expanding a Brussels presence by providing first-hand, on-the-ground advice and guidance.