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The London office of US firm Cadwalader Wickersham &Taft is losing project finance partner Paul Griffin to Herbert Smith, leaving a question mark over the future of the firm's nascent projects group.
According to three sources close to Cadwalader, Griffin decided to leave after disagreements over the level of the firm's investment in the projects practice.
A source says: "He was increasingly under pressure from New York, and this year was going to be a critical year in terms of getting the billing right."
Only two other US partners - Robert Vitale and Roger Rosendahl - handle project finance work.
Griffin was made administration partner of Cadwalader's London office in April 1999, six months after his arrival from Ashurst Morris Crisp (The Lawyer, 19 April 1999). Prior to that he was a partner at Denton Hall.
Griffin, whose background is in oil and gas, had worked primarily for UK energy companies. He declined to comment on his move.
At the time of going to press, it was unclear whether the six associates which make up Griffin's group would remain. Sources close to the firm say that they had been given the choice to stay or go.
But Cadwalader partner Andrew Wilkinson insists: "We expect members of his team to stay, and we'll back them to the hilt."
Wilkinson adds: "Paul concluded that his practice, particularly in the Far East, had a better fit with Herbert Smith's, and we wish him well."
Herbert Smith already has a strong corporate projects practice, particularly in transport infrastructure. Griffin will join Andrew Preece's highly regarded team, which has a significant presence in Asia.
CMS Cameron McKenna project finance partner Paul Biggs is due to join Cadwalader in August.