Top CMS Cameron McKenna property partner John Vivian has resigned to join SJ Berwin.
Vivian is being joined by assistant Katheryn Almond, who is set to become a partner when she joins the firm.
Vivian's key clients include leading industry name Brixton Estates, for which he has sealed a string of £100m deals, Prestbury, Crown Estates, Gazeley, Henderson Investors and ProLogis Kingspark Developments.
His move is thought to be motivated by a conscious decision at Camerons to emphasise corporate at the expense of its property practice.
A source close to the firm says: "They made a management decision to de-emphasise property in favour of corporate and banking. It seems completely barking. The thing they do better than any firm is property and construction. Why decide to focus on an area that a number of City firms are already doing very well? It's pointless."
But Camerons has denied that the firm is shifting away from property. Managing partner Dick Tyler says: "We won't succeed with our international ambition without a strong corporate and banking practice. That's not to say we don't put emphasis on other areas such as property. Indeed, one of the great successes of the firm since the merger has been property."
The move comes as a further blow to Camerons following the resignation of leading construction partner Ann Minogue late last year, the departure of property partners Robert Porter and Arthur Dyson to Clifford Chance and Louise Anderson to White & Case. Tyler says there are no plans for lateral hire replacements.
Vivian was put on immediate gardening leave. Tyler says: "We think it was the right thing to do in the interests of our business."
The arrivals will boost SJ Berwin's property partner count to 14, with a further seven in construction, planning and property litigation.