U.S. law firms shuffle top privacy lawyers in Europe

Charles-Albert Helleputte joins Squire Patton Boggs in Brussels and Paris from U.S. law firm Steptoe & Johnson where he led the EU data privacy practice.

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Law firm Squire Patton Boggs said Monday it has hired a new leader for its EU data privacy, cybersecurity, and digital assets practice group, after losing practice co-chair Rosa Barcelo in a three-attorney move to McDermott, Will, and Emery in April.

Charles-Albert Helleputte joins Squire Patton Boggs in Brussels and Paris from U.S. law firm Steptoe & Johnson where he led the EU data privacy practice.

He is accompanied by counsel Diletta De Cicco, who will work out of Brussels and Milan, and two associates in Brussels and London.

This is the second time the Cleveland, Ohio-headquartered global law firm has shopped for privacy-focused attorneys in Europe this year, with the firm hiring six lawyers, including London practice leader David Naylor, to the same practice group in April.

An uptick in M&A activity across the firm’s European practice, along with shifting regulatory conditions, continues to drive demand from clients for data privacy and cybersecurity work, Squire Patton Boggs’ global privacy practice leader Alan Friel said.

The practice is evolving from compliance and incident response to "strategic counsel on digital transformation," Friel said in an email.

He added that tackling privacy and cybersecurity concerns is now part of "any M&A deal."

Law firms have been aggressively hiring privacy and cybersecurity lawyers as companies grapple with a lack of clarity around EU-UK data transfer post-Brexit and EU-US data transfer after two transatlantic data-sharing agreements were thrown out by the EU’s top court.

U.S. law firms Hunton Andrews Kurth, McDermott Will & Emery, Mayer Brown, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, and Cooley all hired data-focused partners earlier this year in their U.S. or European offices.

President Joe Biden on Friday signed an executive order to implement a third EU-US data transfer agreement announced in March.

Amid increased demand for more data regulations in the EU's cryptocurrency sector, Helleputte, who has advised crypto exchange Bitfinex, said the industry is looking for public and regulatory trust.

"Clients have been keen to use EU privacy standards, even without actual GDPR nexus, as a key component of building trust," Helleputte said in an email.

Squire Patton Boggs is looking at Helleputte and Naylor to lead the pan-European growth of its practice, European managing partner Jonathan Jones said.