The Benelux Region has long been a key area of growth for international law firms, especially those based in the US. This is evidenced by recent news that US heavyweight Weil Gotshal is planning to open a Brussels office 14 years after previously closing their Belgian operation.
As with many changes over the past few years, this can be explained in part by the seismic effects of Brexit and the need for many large corporate firms to have an EU presence for competition and regulatory law. While previously this could be done from London, this is no longer the case and a logical choice for many law firms is opening an office in Brussels, as it is home to the European Commission.
Belgium Legal Market
Brussels is not only the capital of Belgium but also the de facto capital of the European Union. This means that any large corporate law firms that advise large multinationals on aspects of EU law and regularly have to plead before the European courts are heavily incentivised to have a presence in the city.
Outside of this, cross-border M&A is a staple for the Brussels’ legal market and the fact that transactional activity in the region was not heavily affected by COVID in comparison to other European countries makes Brussels an extremely attractive location for international firms looking to grow their global presence.
Netherlands Legal Market
Just north of Belgium lies the Netherlands, another key European legal hub with two main cities, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. While Amsterdam far outweighs Rotterdam in terms of activity and revenue, Rotterdam has grown quite considerably in recent years, with its growth in IT work and the fact it is Europe’s largest seaport making it a hub for shipping law.
The Netherlands has been particularly popular recently with large established UK law firms including Eversheds, Bird & Bird and Pinsent Masons opening new offices. That being said, even in comparison to other developed nations, the Netherlands suffered heavy economic losses due to the impact of COVID19 in 2020 and 2021. This was further exacerbated by how badly their case numbers have been due to the virus, forcing many businesses to shut their doors for even longer than their European counterparts. However, as a large tech hub there has been some good news for the Dutch economy, with the tech industry experiencing incredible growth during the pandemic many people see this as the country’s saving grace for transactional and regulatory practice areas.
Luxembourg Legal Market
Finally, Luxembourg has long been known as a European tax haven with many large private equity firms and investment banks using it as an ideal location for their business activities given its lax regulations. On a more negative note, Luxembourg is considered the capital for corporate tax avoidance which may also be a reason for its massive economic growth in the past few decades, which now makes it a European powerhouse in the financial industry.
The Luxembourg legal industry focuses heavily on investment funds and financial regulation, however with its small population, many Lawyers in the region tend to be generalist, meaning they can assist on various matters from M&A to Litigation, especially those at local firms such as Elvinger Hoss or Bonn & Schmitt.
Ciaran Connolly is an International Legal Recruitment Consultant here at Interlink Talent Solutions, specialising in the European legal market. Contact Ciaran for a confidential discussion about the opportunities available to both candidates and clients within this region.