Pinsent Curtis has taken on an in-house lawyer to challenge Eversheds' national dominance in public sector work.
Pinsents has hired chief solicitor Nicholas Dobson from Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council to fill the tailor-made post of head of local government.
Top public sector partner Stephen Cirell of Eversheds admits that in the long term, and with the right resources, Pinsents could become a serious competitor.
But in the short term Cirell is unfazed by the appointment.
He says his team has built an annual turnover of u5m since local authority work began to take off in 1993.
But Cirell warns: “It takes a long time to get the ball rolling and build up a top line practice.”
A spokeswoman for Pinsents says the firm's local government practice now has a triumvirate structure.
Dobson will work alongside partner Arthur Lovitt, head of public sector and projects, and partner Alan Aisbett.
Lovitt says: “Our firm has an established reputation for public sector work at both local and national levels.”
But Dobson admits: “Eversheds have cornered the market nationally.”
Keith Hartley, a partner at rival Masons' Leeds office, says he comes across both Eversheds and Pinsents in a number of cities.
But when asked which firm stands out among competitors, he answers: “Eversheds have always had a strong local government connection.”
Dobson plans to build Pinsents' local government profile, but still has to iron out the strategy with his new colleagues.
He says: “Local authorities are facing profound changes and will need strong legal and management support to win success in the new area.”
Dobson, who will join the Leeds office as a partner on 22 June, has also been active in a number of professional associations focusing on Best Value, the Government's replacement scheme for compulsory competitive tendering.
He also assists the national TUPE Forum which is assisting the Government on revising transfer of employment undertakings regulations.
l Eversheds' partner quits to become general counsel in leading government department. See page 7