Linklaters & Alliance has strongly denied suggestions that last week's partner defection to Clifford Chance is the first sign of discontent at the alliance network.
Chris Bright, formerly a competition and regulatory partner in Linklaters' Brussels office, has accepted an offer from Clifford Chance to become managing partner of the firm's European competition practice, as revealed on The Lawyer's web site (www.the-lawyer.co.uk) last Wednesday.
The move breaks the unwritten rule within the "magic circle" of top five firms that they do not poach from each other.
Linklaters' managing partner Tony Angel says the move was due entirely to Bright's personal ambition to run his own department, and not to any general malaise within the alliance.
"Chris will probably not be replaced, as within our Brussels office we have 75 competition lawyers, 27 of whom are partners.
"While it is disappointing for anyone to leave, suggestions that the alliance is breaking up are completely wrong. In fact the situation is quite the contrary and the mood is enormously positive. We are beginning to see clients really appreciate the benefit of us being perceived as a global law firm."
Angel rejects suggestions that individual lawyers have had their ambitions to reach senior positions thwarted, saying that lawyers who were approaching the top of their individual offices now have many people above them.
There have also been suggestions of discontent among the continental partners of Linklaters over the extent of centralised management. This rumour was also denied by the firm.
While numbers have inevitably increased, Angel says the effect on individuals has been offset by the quality of work the alliance is receiving.
"For most lawyers their ambition is to be doing the best transactions, and to be doing the most exciting, leading edge work is extremely satisfying."
Bright has now left Linklaters and is due to take up his post at Clifford Chance in May.