Couderts suffers further staff losses

THE REVOLVING door at Coudert Brothers has turned again with three associates, including newly-recruited UK tax specialist James Benger, quitting to form their own firm.

Michael Chissick, who started with Couderts three years ago, and former Clifford Chance lawyer Claire Nelson, who joined in June, opened as Nelson Chissick last week.

Benger, who also joined from Clifford Chance, started with Couderts in January. He is being held to his three-month notice period until a replacement can be found.

An additional, unnamed solicitor is also expected to join the firm at the beginning of 1996, when the practice will be renamed to include four name partners. Assistants will also be hired.

One source claimed the departures had been caused by the lack of promotional opportunities in Couderts London office.

This suggestion was denied by Couderts' London administrative partner Steven Beharrell. He said that the firm was already speaking to a potential replacement for Benger who was brought in to build a UK tax and funds practice.

The replacement will work with funds specialist Alasdair Gordon, brought in from Lovell White Durrant earlier this year.

Beharrell said the firm was also focusing on the development of its litigation practice, boosted by the recent hiring of Clifford Chance associate Colin Turner and Elizabeth Williams from Richards Butler. “We're building up on all levels,” said Beharrell. “We're now up to 28 fee earners and before this happened we were already about to recruit another corporate lawyer.

“We will now take on two, one to replace Michael, and we will obviously be replacing Claire in property.”

He said two associates, recently sent from the London office to New York and Paris, would also be replaced.

Nelson said there were “very positive reasons” for leaving Couderts, and it was possible the two firms would continue to work together.

“Obviously it was a bit of a shock for them that we were all walking out, because we were all very senior,” she said. “But, all in all, I think it was quite a clean break.

“We wish Couderts very well and I think we still have a good relationship with most of the people there.

“Obviously we would like James out as soon as possible, but he's not going to give up money and they will hold him as long as it takes.”