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11 January 2021

Van Bael & Bellis hires London partner to tap post-Brexit rise in arbitration

Top Belgian firm bolsters recently launched London arm with Skadden hire

By Ben Rigby and Lauren Woodhead

United Kingdom and European Union flags over the Bank District's Skyscrapers in London, England

Shutterstock; ZGPhotography

Brussels firm Van Bael & Bellis has bolstered its recently launched London office with the hire of investment arbitration specialist Nicholas Lawn as a partner from Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom.

Lawn, who was a counsel at his former firm, will head up the firm’s new London international dispute resolution practice.

His hire comes five months after Van Bael opened for business in London in a move designed to exploit opportunities presented by the UK’s exit from the EU.

With a particular focus on investment arbitration, Lawn brings extensive experience advising both sovereign states and multinational corporations in international disputes across a broad range of sectors from telecoms to mining.

He also has notable regional expertise regarding disputes involving Central and Eastern Europe and South Asia and is a solicitor-advocate with rights of audience in the UK’s Higher Courts. Most recently, he was part of a team which successfully represented Vodafone against the Republic of India, in a multi-billion dollar arbitration. 

Prior to his 11 years at Skadden, Lawn spent three years at Simmons & Simmons and four at McDermott.

Van Bael managing partner Philippe De Baere said: “Nick will be a huge asset to the firm as we seek to develop our international dispute resolution practice from our new London office at a time when London is expected to grow in importance as an arbitration centre following the UK’s exit from the EU.”

Arbitration, public international law and trade law all feature in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed by the UK and EU ahead of Brexit and last week the EU and UK nominated the first list of arbitrators to hear disputes. 

Van Bael has several lawyers specialising in various aspects of international law among its ranks, including Gabriele Coppo, who was promoted to the partnership in 2019.

Lawn –  the firm’s first London appointment whose expertise goes beyond EU law – will work closely with Coppo, counsel Isabelle Van Damme and associate Quentin Decléve. 

He said he was “delighted” to be joining “at such a pivotal point for the firm”.

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