Measured by numbers of full time lobbyists and persons involved, the top law firms with public policy capabilities in Brussels are (in alphabetical order): Covington, DLA Piper, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Norton Rose Fullbright and Squire Patton Boggs.
Other prominent law firms with lobbying capabilities include: Alber & Geiger, Bird & Bird, Fieldfisher, Gide, K&L Gates, Keller and Heckman, Linklaters, Mayer Brown, Latham & Watkins and Steptoe.
Interestingly some of the largest US law firms in Brussels (e.g. Cleary Gottlieb with 85 lawyers here) lack any dedicated lobbyists. As discussed elsewhere, a number of law firms are not on the transparency register despite having lobbying capabilities, including prominent firms Sidley Austin and White & Case.
Law firms offer a different approach and staff compared with most public affairs consultancies. “Lawyers are inherently trained to spot the key issues and risks, and we at Squire Patton Boggs build a winning strategic approach by combining the best policy ideas with convincing – and sometimes forcing – legal and regulatory arguments. The smart combination of legal and policy approaches is very powerful in the fast-moving and high-stakes world of Brussels policymaking – in particular, in highly regulated industry sectors. Often enough you need to understand the broader underlying legal basis in order to fully appreciate the implications of a proposed new policy measure,” says Wolfgang Maschek, Partner & Chair of the European Public Policy Practice at Squire Patton Boggs LLP.
“Equally, knowing how to protect clients in light of increasingly stringent applicable conduct rules, such as GDPR, is very important hiring factor for many of our policy clients. We help clients avoid reputational and other risks stemming from engagement with external policy stakeholders, which can destroy in days what takes years to build up in terms of external reputation and goodwill,” continued Maschek.
Covington helps clients worldwide achieve critical business objectives by combining legal, political, and policy expertise to provide strategic advice and advocacy. Covington highlights the connections and experience of its senior staff.
“Described as ‘well connected with both the regulators and thought-leaders,’ by Chambers and Partners, Covington’s USP is the sheer number of former senior diplomats in our midst, on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as in Asia and Africa. What clients value most is the combination of law and policy that we are able to offer. Having a team that can analyse a regulatory issue from a legal as well as a policy perspective and then draft and propose amendments in a compelling way is seen as a real benefit.” Sebastian Vos, co-chair of Covington’s public policy practice.
DLA Piper’s International Government Affairs team provides advice at all stages of the regulatory process. Advising on regulatory law, they focus on managing risk for clients in sustainabiliy and trade, antitrust and competition, sanctions compliance and global supply chain resilience.
“DLA Piper takes a cross-disciplinary approach as the path to success is almost always a combination of policy and legal strategy. This means we carefully coordinate efforts in different forums. Our lawyers and policy professionals benefit tremendously from our global platform: we often work across borders and practice groups in very diverse teams, ensuring the most efficient and effective results for our clients.” Richard Sterneberg, Partner, Head of Global Government Relations, DLA Piper.
Freshfields offers clients strategic policy advice to help them shape legislation and administrative decisions. They cover a broad range of sectors, including financial services, technology, energy, environment, telecoms, tax, trade, transport and retail.
“Our Regulatory and Public Affairs teams, based in Brussels and Berlin, work closely with legal teams across our network to provide clients with unrivalled access to legal and sector-specific industry knowledge and help them manage their regulatory environments. We have exactly what they need: advisers who focus on the interface between law, politics and business. Being able to develop a quick understanding of clients’ businesses and the environments in which they operate means we can add value right from the start.” Natalie Pettinger Kearney, Head of EU Regulatory & Public Affairs at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
Norton Rose Fullbright underlines its grounding in technical knowledge to lobbying. Their government relations and public policy (GRPP) practice helps clients promote policy change, shape draft legislation and manage regulatory risk.
“Having both deep expertise in the law and regulation and an insider’s understanding of politics and policy-making enables us to synthesise solutions that work commercially, legally and politically. That is a rare combination which we believe adds real value to our clients.” Ana Carrier, Senior Government and Regulatory Affairs Advisor, Norton Rose Fulbright.