The Euclid formula – How I moved from Big law to a rather special boutique and lived to tell the tale

By Becket McGrath

There comes a time in one’s career where an opportunity arises that feels like a jump into the unknown. The question then becomes, do you stick to what you know and are used to or dare to take what looks like the riskier option?

As one of the partners who built up the Berwin Leighton Paisner EU and UK competition practice in the mid-2000s, a founding partner of the London office of US firm Cooley in 2015 and of that firm’s Brussels office in 2019, I was accustomed to building a high quality EU and UK law competition practice in a larger firm context.  Based on that experience, I was no stranger to risk, but it felt like time to take on the challenge of building such a practice in a smaller, more focused firm.

At a time of economic uncertainty, when so many workplaces are having to evolve rapidly, it provided some comfort that the Euclid team had already undertaken a radical change in how they do business. Founding partner Oliver Bretz and the rest of the team created something truly unique in the London market five years ago: a boutique firm entirely focused on providing expert EU and UK competition law advice to the highest possible standard, in a collegiate and nimble manner.  

Having watched the firm go from strength to strength, joining them for the next phase of this exciting venture right now turned out to be perfect timing. Indeed, the events of 2020 have demonstrated the benefits of our approach in a dramatic way, as we were already set up for remote working, including through the use of a cloud-based matter management platform. Our model also meant that we were not saddled with the high overheads associated with large City offices, support staff and teams of associates.

While joining Euclid Law in the middle of a national lockdown in June was certainly challenging, and felt far from playing it safe, it now turns out to have been less of a risk, as we are uniquely well-placed to ride out the current storm.  

Playing it safe vs. expert versatility

While traditional law firms largely maintain a rigid, one-size-fits-all approach, Euclid is like the pragmatic skink of New South Wales: we look at the risk and adapt to the environment in a way that best meets the overall objective. We approach each case with customised and personalised advice and work together with clients to explore the risks and uncertainties associated with different options for solving their issues. We then create a bespoke strategy tailored to their risk appetite and the ever-changing competition law environment. While the choice is ultimately the client’s, we are quite happy to take a view on the level of risk and provide the direction they need to make a decision.

Client feedback and case studies validate our business model. For example, when a global food retailer wanted to buy a competitor company, a big firm simply told them “no, too risky”, so they then turned to Euclid for a second opinion. We found that it was in fact possible, with some risk but minimum divestment prospects. It took a pragmatic approach to push through this high-yield deal.

We adopt a similar approach to UK merger notifications. While other firms might opt for a ‘one size fits all’ approach on whether to notify the authorities prior to a merger, we analyse each case’s risk profile in-depth, in the context of what is a highly dynamic CMA environment, and advise accordingly. We are not adverse to the client taking a calculated risk and will stick to our guns when we’re confident in our counsel.

Proudly Counter-Cultural

So, if we’re a lean partner-led team with a flexible fee structure that aims to produce the best results for clients, how is Euclid able to offer high quality, bespoke solutions and be profitable, all without partners burning the proverbial candle at both ends?

The answer is simple: we keep our costs low, we deploy our deep expertise straight away rather than expecting the client to pay for junior lawyers to acquire that expertise on the job, and we use technology in a smart way.  

The deep experience of the Euclid team, acquired from our work at global law firms and at a senior level within competition authorities, gives us the confidence to do this with confidence. All of our senior lawyers are ranked in the current Global Competition Review/Who’s Who Legal directory of leading competition lawyers and two are ranked as ‘thought leaders’ by that publication. Clients get direct access to this expertise, in a focused and efficient way. 

Once we are instructed, our clients become part of our team and also appreciate this approach. Although we are hyper-professional and always available, regardless of timing, we can structure our worktime and lives around our extended team’s needs and our humane approach is valued by all concerned.

Euclid’s flexible fee structure, bespoke case strategy and client-first approach is undeniably ‘counter-cultural’ in an industry that can be beset by entrenched working practices and business models. We’re comfortable being viewed as rebel upstarts, because we don’t view ourselves as a traditional law firm, but rather as entrepreneurs. And being an entrepreneur means constantly working to improve what we do, for clients, for staff and for society as a whole. In fact, both Oliver Bretz and Marie Leppard were nominated for EY Entrepreneur of the Year in 2020.

We are also alive to the social context in which we operate. Competition law helps to shape the societies we live in and what we do for our clients impacts markets and consumer welfare. Competition law also has the ability to support wider policies, such as environmental protection – a cause Euclid is dedicated to.

Competition law is an exciting space right now and in this respect, we are arguably fortunate to be living in such interesting times, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. Euclid is uniquely placed to thrive in this environment, and this is one of the main reasons why I decided to join this exciting venture. We believe that our success in such a short time – against strong competition – is due largely to our innovative yet pragmatic approach, which continues to evolve as we do.

More on Euclid’s #5YearEvolution here:

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