Washington DC's largest firm Hogan & Hartson is taking on the former head of employment at SJ Berwin as it offers UK law for the first time.
Nicola Walker is joining five partners at Hogan & Hartson's London office, with the intention of beginning a recruitment drive for local lawyers.
Hogan & Hartson is the second US firm to make the jump into UK law this year. Gibson Dunn & Crutcher expanded its remit when it recruited dual-qualified property partner Alan Samson from Nabaro Nathanson (The Lawyer, 24 January).
The firm plans to build up a practice in corporate finance and IT work. As well as Walker, two of the office's existing corporate partners are dual-qualified and are now authorised to advise on UK law.
For the present, the London office will focus on servicing clients in the US.
Hogan's clients include MediaOne, Deutsche Bank, Lufthansa Airlines and Saudi investor Prince Alwaleed, who has an enormous global portfolio including interests in Canary Wharf.
London managing partner Daniel Maccoby says: "We've been here now for 10 years and I think our clients are increasingly demanding additional English law expertise. We're really trying to do it in an area that's of interest to our clients - corporate finance, telcoms and e-commerce.
"We'll continue building out in those areas. It is part of an overall European expansion in the firm at the moment."
In August, Hogan & Hartson opened in Berlin with a team that included 10 partners and 16 associates from Oppenhoff & Rädler, which had voted in July to merge with Linklaters & Alliance.
Maccoby says: "We'll have more than 100 lawyers in Europe - there's an enormous amount of business and we have US clients here that want us to work with them."
He says the office is starting off with an employment partner because it is where clients have the biggest need for local law.
Walker left SJ Berwin last summer and took a year off.
She says: "Hogan & Hartson has a range of work in the US, and some clients want them to act for them here. In the first instance, an awful lot of that work is employment.
"The US partners here can often help clients with international issues, but when it comes to local law, one of the biggest problems here is employment law."
Her clients at SJ Berwin included FTSE 100 companies, international corporations, financial services companies and technology start-ups, but she refuses to comment on whether former clients will be moving with her.