MCKENNA & Co partner Richard Burnett-Hall has defected to Bristows Cooke & Carpmael, where he will establish an environmental law service to business clients and other law firms.
Burnett-Hall, an environmental law expert, says he decided to move in order to go to a smaller firm where he could develop a specialist niche practice. He became a consultant with McKennas two years ago.
One source claims that as a previously high-earning senior partner in charge of one of the less profitable departments, he was seen as too expensive.
But McKennas managing partner Robert Derry-Evans denies this, saying that Burnett-Hall became a consultant for the two-year period to write a book on environmental law.
Burnett-Hall also declined to comment on his leaving. "I wanted to be in a small niche firm - in the long term environmental work will be run by niche practices and the very big firms," he says.
He says that in the light of fast-developing UK and European environmental law, lawyers' failure to take this law into account in their daily work amounts to negligence.
Burnett-Hall had been a partner at McKennas since 1974 He set up one of the first environmental law practices in 1982 which he headed until two years ago, when he began writing the 1,200-page book 'Environmental Law', due to be published shortly.
He will carry on consultancy work for the European Commission regarding environmental law which he started at McKennas.
He co-ordinates research work for the UK Environmental Law Association and has extensive lobbying experience.