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Baker & McKenzie's New York office has been hit by the defection of a five-lawyer asset and fund management team from its corporate department to US rival Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison.
The team, led by partners Steven Howard and Scott MacLeod, are quitting the firm just months after it announced a major restructuring programme at the office.
Managing partner William Outman, who was brought in from Washington to oversee the shake-up, said the firm had planned to move Howard to Washington.
"I presumed up to last week that Steven Howard would relocate to Washington, as I saw synergistic opportunities in a Washington and New York practice," he told The Lawyer.
But instead, Howard and MacLeod, in addition to their team of three associates and two paralegals. will bolster the corporate department at Paul Weiss.
Alfred Youngwood, Paul Weiss partner and spokesman, said it was looking to attract "super-lawyers" to further grow its funds, mergers and acquisitions, and securities practices.
To date, Paul Weiss has not opened an office in London, but Youngwood said that the firm was "actively considering how best to serve its British clientele".
Baker & McKenzie announced the restructuring of its New York office last November. At that time, Dennis Meyer, managing partner of the firm's US offices, said: "We are committed to raising Baker & McKenzie's stature in New York, especially the core practice areas such as corporate and securities, and banking and finance."
According to Outman, Baker & McKenzie is undertaking a firm-wide effort to re-examine the service offered to clients. He suggested that the New York office did not yet have the quality in depth.