Camerons and Lovells battle over Warsaw notice period

CMS Cameron McKenna’s Polish office is wrangling with Lovells over the notice period of three partners who have defected to the firm.

The three former Camerons partners, corporate and insurance partner Beata Balas-Noszczyk, tax partner Andrzej Debiec and property and dispute resolution partner Jolanta Nowakowska-Zimoch, joined Lovells at the start of this month (The Lawyer, 6 November).

However, Camerons has consulted Allen & Overy’s (A&O) Warsaw office on whether the partners were bound into serving a six-month notice period at the time of the move.

The argument surrounds the introduction of a new contract, which according to Christian Schmidt, managing partner of Lovells’ Warsaw office, the three lawyers did not sign.

The new contract came after Camerons changed from a limited liability company to a limited partnership under Polish laws expected to be introduced in January 2001 (The Lawyer, 2 October).

Schmidt says: “They didn’t sign [the contracts], but Camerons is of the opinion that they were bound by this new contract they didn’t sign.”

Andrzej Siemiatkowski, joint managing partner of A&O’s Warsaw office, confirms that Camerons has asked the firm to give an opinion.

The three partners were part of a six-lawyer exodus. Corporate partner Janusz Adamkowski and capital markets and litigation partner Karol Rutkowski are still at Camerons serving their notice. Corporate and employment partner Marek Wroniak gave notice earlier this year under the previous contract and is now practising at Lovells.

Wroniak says: “I can confirm that I’ve seen A&O’s opinion, but there are certain details of that opinion based on an individual opinion, and they’ve not listened to [the former partners’] explanation.” He says that following the old contract’s termination, the three partners were practising on a verbal contract based on Polish civil law, where the notice period is considerably shorter.