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Bristol's Veale Wasbrough has been hit by the defection of its head of employment and a team of lawyers to rival Bevan Ashford.
Highly-rated partner Sarah Lamont is taking an associate, Anne Palmer, and two assistants, Tim Woodward and Bruce Rossington, to Bevan Ashford.
Lamont will be reunited with two former Veale Wasbrough colleagues, corporate partners Nigel Campbell and Stuart Whitfield, who joined Bevan Ashford in August.
Her move comes just nine months after Veale Wasbrough's previous head of employment, Chris Southam, defected to Hammond Suddards in London.
Two weeks ago, The Lawyer revealed that Veale Wasbrough was in preliminary merger talks with Eversheds.
Veale Wasbrough's new managing partner Simon Pizzey released a short statement the following week which said: "If an alliance or merger would assist us in succeeding, then we would give it very careful consideration in the interests of our clients, our entire business and our staff."
Pizzey admitted the firm was "disappointed" that Lamont and her team were leaving.
But he said the 29-partner firm was "committed to growth" and that "employment remains a target for expansion".
He added that another employment partner, Mike Davies, would take over as head of department.
Lamont refused to comment on her move from Veale Wasbrough, but David Widdowson, head of employment at Bevan Ashford, said: "Sarah and her team are a perfect complement to our practice."