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US firm Buchanan Ingersoll has launched in London after luring key players from Beachcroft Wansbroughs' highly-rated projects team.
Head of projects Barry Francis is understood to be leaving to join the Pittsburgh-based firm along with six other partners and 10 assistants.
Francis' private finance initiative (PFI) practice is particularly strong in healthcare and is one of Beachcrofts' core practices. Francis joined Beachcroft Hyman Isaacs as a trainee in 1977, and his decision to leave is understood to have rocked the newly-merged Beachcroft Wansbroughs.
Francis and his colleagues are negotiating their exit terms from Beachcrofts. Buchanans has had a non-legal healthcare consultancy operation in London for more than a year.
Jerry Mansmann, head of Buchanans' international practice group, will not discuss plans for developing its UK legal practice.
An industry source says: "They are looking to start up with the projects side and roll out into corporate, banking, property and tax to be pretty much full service. I think their aim is to be about 50 lawyers within the next year."
Buchanans has more than 300 lawyers in 12 US offices. With discussions taking place, neither Beachcrofts nor Buchanans is prepared to comment.