Mayer Brown" />Barlow Lyde & Gilbert (BLG) has been left in disarray following the defection of a three-partner team led by commercial litigation head Clare Canning to Mayer Brown.
Canning, along with partners Simon Willis and Matthew Lawson, is set to join the US firm in the coming weeks and is said by BLG insiders to be a "major loss" to the firm.
"Clare was one of a power base of four and without them being on board most things wouldn't be given the green light," said one partner. "Sarah Clover, Julian Randall and Colin Croly make up the other three-quarters of the leadership square. It will be interesting to see how this trio will work without Clare."
Randall is set to take over as head of professional liability and commercial litigation when Canning leaves the firm.
Firm insiders said Canning's loss is BLG chief executive Clint Evans' first major setback since joining more than two months ago. He refutes this claim.
Evans said Canning's departure had been on the cards for more than a year, so the firm was ready for her move.
"At Barlows we have more than 50 partners whose practices involve commercial litigation, so the impact of losing one excellent lawyer is not as bad as other possible losses where we have fewer partners," explained Evans.
BLG has lost a number of partners on the non-contentious side over the past few months, including financial services regulatory chief Chris Warren-Smith and Singapore boss David Johnston. The partner losses equated to one a month over the summer period.
One firm insider supported Evans' claim that, while Canning is certainly a loss to BLG, her departure will not spell the end of its litigation practice. The source told The Lawyer: "Clare's departure comes at a pretty good time for the firm as unlike the rest of her team she's been having a quiet billing period."
A former BLG partner said: "Although Clare was very much part of this square of power, it appears that she'd been taking a back seat over the past few months and that Julian [Randall] had pretty much taken over from her anyway. She's a great girl, but BLG will be able to live without her." Canning's move comes after a 22-year stint at BLG. She became a partner in 1992 and was made head of commercial litigation in 2004. Her experience includes advising financial institutions, hedge funds and private equity houses, and she led the team that defended Equitable Life's £2.6bn claim against Ernst & Young.
According to Canning, her move to Mayer Brown represents a fresh challenge for herself and the team. "Mayer Brown's existing expertise, coupled with its commitment to develop its litigation practice, is enormously attractive in terms of the opportunities it presents," she said.
David Allen, Mayer Brown London head of litigation, added: "Their appointment will significantly enhance our existing expertise and is another step forward in the implementation of our litigation strategy in London."
The US firm has been on a hiring spree in the past few weeks that has seen it beef up its corporate and real estate practices with the addition of partners Alistair Bird from Simmons & Simmons and Gary Watson from Ashurst. They will join the respective practices in the next six weeks (The Lawyer, 24 September).
Their appointments followed that of corporate rainmaker William Charnley, who joined from McDermott Will & Emery at the beginning of October, as first revealed on www.thelawyer. com (10 September).