International Man of Antitrust

Alexander Israel (LLM’05) was recruited to help launch Cooley’s Brussels office in February.

Alexander Israel (LLM'05)Alexander Israel (LLM’05) was born in Germany, studied law in Germany, and is a German-qualified attorney with expertise in German law. But he’s never practiced in his home country.

After earning his LLM degree from Boston University School of Law, he worked as an associate at WilmerHale in Brussels. From there, he was recruited to open a Brussels office for the German firm Noerr. And, in February, he was tapped by Cooley to open its Brussels outpost—the firm’s second location in Europe and first on the continent (Cooley opened in London in 2015).

“Sometimes you’re surprised,” Israel says, explaining his career. “I came from a little town in Germany, and now I’m in Brussels as a partner in one of the most dynamic law firms in the world.”

Israel wasn’t sure what kind of law he wanted to practice when he enrolled at the University of Göttingen. But when he started working as a teaching assistant and researcher for one of the country’s top antitrust law experts, Ulrich Immenga, he soon found his path.

“The fascinating thing for me about antitrust law is that you need a deep understanding of all different kinds of markets—one day aviation, the next day chemicals, then financial services,” he says. “You really become an industry expert.”

When Immenga recommended Israel pursue an LLM in the United States, Israel was impressed by the personal attention he received from BU Law and the option to choose his courses once he completed the required curriculum.

“I had a chat with [Assistant Dean for Graduate and International Programs] John Riccardi,” he remembers. “I thought, ‘They are really interested in their students.’ John was very helpful in finding the right courses at BU that really helped me follow my interests.”

After graduating with an LLM in American Law, Israel had the chance to work on several high-profile antitrust matters at WilmerHale. With Sven B. Völcker (now at Latham & Watkins) and others, he represented Lufthansa in the air cargo price fixing case (the airline was granted immunity but still appealed and got the first-ever annulment in an immunity case) and helped represent a Swiss investment bank in the credit default swaps market investigation by the European Commission (the commission dropped the inquiry into his client).

Völcker says Israel was the complete package.

“Alexander had everything we were looking for—a true passion for competition law; deep substantive knowledge of the subject from his studies with Professor Ulrich Immenga, one of the luminaries in the field; an LLM degree from a renowned US law school; and a keen understanding of the practical realities of competition-law enforcement and the practice of law.”

After WilmerHale, Israel joined Noerr, where he became an equity partner in 2017 and grew the firm’s Brussels office to nine attorneys. When Cooley came calling, he was ready to make a change.

“I was looking for a more international platform,” he says. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—you can’t say no to an offer like this.”

Another BU alum helped recruit Israel to Cooley. Chief Executive Officer Joe Conroy (’86) has overseen the firm’s growth since 2008. Cooley now has more than 1,000 attorneys in 14 cities, up from 300 in four. He says Israel was a perfect fit for the firm, which has plans to continue expanding in Europe.

“Alexander has a combination that is rare to find,” he says. “He’s a subject matter expert, but he’s also got a real entrepreneurial streak. It was really attractive for us to build an office around someone who understands the task of building a Cooley presence in a new market.”

Israel also plans to help the firm grow its privacy practice, which is an increasingly important topic for the technology industry.

“Cooley is a market leader on privacy in the US,” Israel says. “There are also clear demands from clients in this area for Cooley in Europe.”

Israel says the year he spent in Boston was invaluable to his career. He immersed himself in antitrust law—including courses with William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor Keith N. Hylton—and particularly appreciated the rigorous legal writing program. But he also said the move helped launch him into an international mindset.

“Living abroad in a different country is an eye opener for everybody,” he says. “I always wanted to be an international practitioner. Being at BU and the experience of a different legal system and education helped me with the decision to do that.”

Reported by Rebecca Beyer

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