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25 September 2020

Crowell beefs up Brussels-based trade team with double lawyer hire

Vassilis Akritidis and Lorenzo Di Masi join from DWF, which announced its exit from Brussels in June

By Ben Rigby and Madeline Anderson

Vassilis Akritidis (left) and Lorenzo Di Masi will join Crowell & Moring in Brussels next month

Crowell & Moring has hired trade duo Vassilis Akritidis and Lorenzo Di Masi from DWF in Brussels as the US firm ramps up its trade focus amid political uncertainty on both sides of the Atlantic.

Both Partner Akritidis and associate Di Masi bring hefty trade experience to their new firm, having previously worked on EU law matters including EU Commission trade investigations, customs issues, and regulatory affairs, including anti-fraud investigations led by OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office. 

Akritidis is also experienced in advising clients on World Trade Organization law and proceedings, which includes trade defence investigations, advisory dockets on trade barriers, and export control and trade sanctions mandates.

“Given the upcoming elections in the US and Brexit in Europe, there is an increased need for trade counsel,” said Nicole Janigian Simonian, co-chair of Crowell & Moring’s international trade group, saying the pair would not just boost European capabilities, but form part of a strong transatlantic trade team to assist clients in Asia as well.

The pair will join Crowell together on October 1st and comes as DWF shutters their office in Brussels amid the downsizing of the firm’s international network, which also saw the closure of its Singapore office in June and the shrinking of their Dubai and Cologne outfits amid cost-saving measures.

Prior to joining DWF in Brussels in 2018, Akritidis was a partner at McGuireWoods, having also spent time at Squire Sanders and legacy firm, Hammonds, in a career spanning nearly three decades. 

He moved to DWF as the managing partner of the Brussels office when McGuireWoods exited the Belgian capital last year. He had worked as co-counsel with Crowell on several cases, while Di Masi is a former Crowell & Moring senior associate who joined DWF in 2019, making their integration into their new firm comparatively easy. 

Crowell & Moring has been present in Brussels for just over 20 years. The firm’s focus on EU law matters centres on Sean-Paul Brankin, an antitrust partner since 2012, and fellow competition partner, Thomas de Meese. Robert McLean, now of Squire Patton Boggs, acted as the firm’s trade expert until 2010, with Washington DC-based partner Jeffrey Snyder and others currently acting on WTO and EU trade mandates.

Local sources say the firm’s Brussels office was historically best known for antitrust, IP and data privacy work, and EU regulatory matters, employment and corporate law work, until this recent effort to grow its trade capabilities. 

That is what Akritidis has been brought onboard to do, having represented businesses, trade associations and governments in the EU, India, China, Brazil, Thailand, Taiwan, Croatia, Russia, Ukraine, Korea, Turkey, the UAE, and the United States, across a variety of sectors.

Philip Inglima, chair of Crowell & Moring, said: “Vassilis has the established reputation and proven experience to help our clients solve their most pressing international trade issues,” noting the firm was strategically growing its international footprint.  

Kristof Roox, co-managing partner of the Brussels office, said the new group would expand the firm’s ability to serve clients throughout Europe, Russia and Asia, saying it would “tackle issues such as the impact of Brexit and trade wars between China and the US, putting us in a very strong position to advise our growing global client base.” 

Speaking to Global Legal Post, Akritidis praised the firm’s strong trade team in the US capital, adding that through his co-counsel work, “we’ve been working together, so [there is] a very good relationship and trust between us.”

He hoped the move would offer Crowell’s clients the chance to access Brussels-based trade-related services and associated in-depth European law advice. While DWF’s geographical footprint had been attractive to Akritidis, he said that with Crowell he looked forward to exploring the opportunities that a new and increasing global scope offered, especially given Crowell’s base of international clients. 

In broadening the Brussels trade practice further, he will work closely with the firm’s US trade team on both the East and West Coasts, which he said “was one of the reasons Crowell & Moring [was] attractive to me, because they’ve improved their capacity significantly in the United States,” as well as working closely with the London office on Brexit issues.

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