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Hammonds' commercial insurance team has suffered a period of marginalisation and the de-equitisation of half of its partners prior to its planned walkout.
As first revealed on www.thelawyer.com/lawyer news on 5 March, the entire commercial insurance team of around 35 lawyers, which is estimated to turn over between £5m and £6m annually, is set to leave the firm and set up an independent niche insurance practice.
TheLawyer understands that during the past 18 months four of the team's eight partners were deequitised, which boosted the profit per partner figures but contributed to a decline in morale. A mere three lines were devoted to the commercial insurance team in a recent firmwide strategy document of 150 pages, which can only have increased their feeling of marginalisation.
The team had the opportunity to leave when the firm floated its high-volume personal injury business, Praxis, three years ago. It chose to stay but The Lawyer understands that it has felt more isolated as the management attempted to mould the firm into a corporate powerhouse.
"About five or six weeks ago the commercial insurance partners approached Richard Burns and myself about the possibility of doing a Praxis," said managing partner Chris Jones. "In principle, we don't have a problem with that," he said.
Jones said that the discussions are amicable but are still at early development stage . He said that he would be happy if the team or any of the lawyers were to stay with the firm and added that no jobs would be lost as a result.
He chose not to comment on the reasons why the team might want to leave.