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New York firm Chadbourne Park has lost Ian Johnson, its last English-qualified partner, to US rival Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe's new London office.
The move could prove the final body blow to Chadbournes' aspirations to set up a major project finance division in London.
Johnson is managing partner of Chadbournes' Singapore office but had been due to fly back to London to lead its London practice following the recent loss of its two UK project finance lawyers, Andrew Thomas and Elish Flax, now at the London office of US firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
Johnson is filling one of the two positions advertised for $1m by Orricks in January.
A short list of candidates for a structured finance lawyer to join Johnson is being drawn up.
Johnson will manage Orricks' London office with a US partner when it opens in late summer.
Thomas said Johnson's departure was the "final blow" for Chadbournes' London arm.
But two weeks ago Chadbournes, which has three English-qualified assistants, moved into larger offices in the City. Jerome Katz, the firm's spokesperson, said: "The office has had a few set backs, but we are confident that we will get back up to speed."