Rogers & Wells partners have been circulating their CVs to rival firms following its executive committee's agreement to merge with Clifford Chance.
As predicted in The Lawyer (26 April) the two firms' executive committees voted for the merger on 21 May. The firms' partners will vote on the proposed union this month.
Partners and associates in New York and around the world are said to be applying to other firms. The managing partner of a US firm's London office says: "I think every major firm has seen resumes from Rogers & Wells.
"It's a good move for Clifford Chance, but because of the fluidity in the US market it's going to be hard for them to close the deal and keep the package intact."
The source says a New York colleague told him that if all the applicants could bring as much business with them as they claimed, "Rogers & Wells must be the busiest firm I've ever seen".
But another US firm's London managing partner says upheaval is to be expected: "It's inevitable with this kind of merger that there will be people heading for the exits, and the key thing is to keep hold of the right people."
Rival firms are watching to see how Clifford Chance and Rogers & Wells attempt to merge the firms' very different pay structures.
Rogers & Wells partners are paid according to how much business they bring in, and the firm is said to have two or three extremely high-earning partners, one drawing about $2.5m (u1.56m) a year.
Earnings on this scale would be difficult to fuse with Clifford Chance's flatter pay structure, which follows the lockstep system.
Problems in reconciling the firms' payment structures caused the merger discussions to stall in March. It appears that a compromise was reached and that there will be no immediate radical change to either firm's remuneration arrangements.
Rogers & Wells managing partner Laurence Cranch refused to comment on the alleged partner unrest.