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In what could be seen as a vote of no confidence for Coopers & Lybrand's planned new law firm, the head of Coopers' employment law unit, Tim Johnson, is leaving to join Arnheim & Co, the firm controlled by Price Waterhouse.
Johnson said he did not want to be associated with any negative comments about the new firm, Tite & Lewis, and described it as "innovative".
Nevertheless, it is understood he did not want to be a part of the firm, to be run by two former Stephenson Harwood partners Christopher Tite and Mark Lewis.
A Coopers spokesman said: "He has been considering what he wants to do for some time and has made it known that he is accepting a position at Arnheim & Co. We are sorry to see him go and wish him well. He tendered his notice before the announcement last week about the formation of a law firm."
The employment law unit headed by Johnson, who leaves at the end of the month, contains some of the 30 lawyers who will be folded into Tite & Lewis when it is established at the end of April.
Several observers believe the move could create problems since not all lawyers will want to work for the new firm. The Lawyer has discovered at least one other Coopers lawyer who is unhappy with the change and is seeking a new job.
Last year, Coopers lost 10 of its 14-strong legal tax team after failed attempts to start its own law firm. Meanwhile, Arnheim & Co has nearly doubled in size since last year.