Cleary Gottlieb makes rare lateral hire in Brussels from Linklaters

Competition and antitrust lawyer Isabel Rooms set to join New York powerhouse after 11 years at UK rival


US law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton has hired competition partner Isabel Rooms from Linklaters to boost its antitrust practice in Brussels. 

Rooms will join Cleary’s 24-lawyer antitrust group in the EU regulatory hub after 11 years at Linklaters, the latter two as a partner. 

Moving across from Linklaters with Rooms is tax lawyer Matthew Brigham, who is set to join the firm as counsel in its New York headquarters. 

Cleary, which currently lists 15 Brussels partners on its website, is known for the strength of its European antitrust work and has enjoyed one of the longest tenures in the European capital out of its US rivals. It set up shop there in 1960 and has since opted to grow its team in Brussels organically rather than with lateral hires, with Rooms marking the firm’s first lateral addition to its Brussels office in 15 years, according to  

One of the most recent additions to its Brussels antitrust team was Marijke Spooren, who joined the partnership in Cleary’s latest promotional round in October that also saw antitrust lawyer Henry Mostyn get the nod in London. The promotions followed Cleary boosting its London competition team in March when it lured partner Jackie Holland away from Slaughter and May. 

In her new role at Cleary, Rooms will continue to cover merger control, abuse of dominance and cartel practices and focus on multi-jurisdictional transactions. In her 11 years at Linklaters she represented clients across a number of European and international jurisdictions, including the European Commission and the Belgian Competition Authority, the firm said. 

Robbert Snelders, a competition partner at Cleary in Brussels, said Rooms "brings a wealth of experience to our team. She has an excellent practice built on prominent multi-jurisdictional merger control and complex behavioural cases [...] Our global team is instructed on some of the most sensitive and business-critical matters in the market. Isabel’s arrival will enhance both our Brussels and global offering.”

Rooms began her legal career in the Brussels office of Norton Rose Fulbright in 2008 and two years later moved over to Linklaters. She spent time in the firm’s New York and London offices between 2012 and 2015, according to her Linkedin profile, and made partner at the firm in 2020.

Brigham, meanwhile, specialises in international and domestic tax matters including complex capital markets, financing and liability management transactions, as well as private equity fund formation and M&A deals. He spent eight years at Linklaters in New York, having joined in 2013 after a six-year stint at Paul Hastings, according to his Linkedin profile. 

Elsewhere, Cleary hired top antitrust litigator Heather Nyong’o from WilmerHale to launch in Palo Alto in November. The firm also relocated three existing partners, including its most senior US antitrust lawyer George Cary, to spearhead the launch alongside six associates ahead of plans to open a second Bay Area office in San Francisco to complement the work of its Silicon Valley shop. 

A couple of Cleary’s Wall Street rivals have also opened for business in Brussels recently in order to take on more European competition work following the UK's exit from the EU. Fellow New York firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett hired Italian competition partner Antonio Bavasso to spearhead its Brussels launch in September, while Fried Frank opened there last month under the stewardship of London-based partner Tobias Caspary and international trade associate Neda Moussavi. 


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