Grapevine

Two out, two in. Here’s Hammonds about to hire two sports partners – Louise Quinn and Alastair Bell – from Olswang. Meanwhile, Olswang is in advanced discussions with two private equity partners – Jonathan Pittal and Perry Yam – from SJ Berwin.

There’s been a fair bit of partner-swopping between all these firms in the past, and most notably between Olswang and SJ Berwin. There’s not much love lost between those two, and it doesn’t help that Olswang boss Jonathan Goldstein is an SJ Berwin alumnus.

And it’s not surprising that SJ Berwin is getting a tad twitchy. Unless there’s a concerted rearguard action to make them stay, Pittal’s and Yam’s exit will take the number of departures from the private equity group to three this year alone. The first was John Daghlian, who was well liked within the group, and who joined O’Melveny & Myers’ relaunched London office in January. (To rub salt in the wound, O’Melvenys’ other partner hire was Matthew Hudson, who several years ago used to be at – you guessed it – SJ Berwin, before becoming a venture capitalist himself in the dotcom boom.)

So, a run of bad luck, or something more fundamental? All three are young. All three have a funds background, but all three are going to firms that have deal-doing ambitions. That may say something about SJ Berwin’s perennial headache at not being able to turn its solid funds practice into something bigger on the transactional side.

In truth, it’s a bold move for Olswang, whose private equity business has hit lean times since it took on Fabrizio Carpanini and Chris Mackie from Berwin Leighton in 1999. Olswang is clearly hoping that the putative new boys’ experience will bring in some tech venture capital – plus biotech, if Yam’s CV is anything to go by. You can read more on this story on www.thelawyer.com/item/108743.

On a different note, watch out for an unlikely alliance between US and UK firms in France – www.thelawyer.com/item/108742.

Willkie Farr & Gallagher partner Dominique Mondolini has been put up as the international firm’s candidate for the Paris bar’s first election. The Anglo-Saxons are incensed at what they perceive as protectionism within the French legal establishment. It’s not quite Super Tuesday, but expect some flag-waving anytime soon.

Email Catrin Griffiths