Allen & Overy property partner Rupert Jones is joining Chicago firm Sonnenschein's London office to help it develop an English law property department.
Jones, who has just advised Morgan Stanley on a £550m securitisation of Canary Wharf, said: "I want to run my own practice in a way that I can't do in a substantial firm like Allen & Overy.
"Bill Tudor John [A&O's senior partner] has said it's becoming a global finance firm. It's quite difficult to keep the property group at the centre of that. Resources are put into other areas. Sonnenscheins is a strong real estate firm in the States with many property clients."
In addition, he said, many of the ideas about securitisation in property were coming from the US. "It's very useful to be able to phone up Chicago and ask, 'look how do you do this?'."
US firm Coudert Brothers also moved into English property advice this autumn by taking over niche London property firm Debenham & Co.
The managing partner of Sonnenschein's London office, Peter Borrowdale, was a former A&O corporate partner who had worked on several transactions with Jones. Jones said there were cultural similarities between A&O and Sonnenscheins, a Chicago firm with a different atmosphere to East Coast US firms. Sonnenscheins has performance-related pay rather than a lock-step but Jones stressed he had not moved for money. "After 12 years as a partner at Allen & Overy I don't need the money.