Simmons & Simmons is losing leading telecoms partner Chris Watson to Allen & Overy.
Watson has a close relationship with some of the biggest names in the industry, say sources. Clients include Telewest Communications, One2One, Deutsche Telekom/France Telecom, and Global Telesystems Inc.
Simmons refuses to accept Watson is head of telecoms, despite the firm's entry in at least one prominent legal directory.
The firm claims it has only department heads rather than practice heads. Robert Hodges, Simmons' spokesman, says: "He is not head of anything," adding: "Not even [of] the bike sheds."
Watson's departure will be a bitter blow to the firm. There is likely to be a tussle for Telewest, the £5bn UK telecoms giant, and one of Watson's biggest clients. He was seconded to the company in the mid 1990s.