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Linklaters & Alliance has bolstered its Spanish operation by poaching two senior lawyers from domestic firms.
Antonio Sanchez-Pedreno joins Linklaters from the Madrid office of Cuatrecasas where he was head of corporate.
He joined the Spanish practice in 1990 and made partner in 1993.
Sanchez-Pedreno, who specialises in cross-border and domestic Spanish M&A work, is joined by capital markets partner Inigo Berricano from Uria & Menendez.
Berricano left Linklaters in 1992 for the Spanish practice but is now returning to the alliance.
Linklaters approached Uria & Menendez to join the alliance in 1998 when it was seeking to form the international alliance.
Although the firms had a close relationship, Uria & Menendez decided against joining the international group.
Sources close to the Spanish practice claim that a non-poaching agreement was signed when the alliance talks fell apart, although Berricano is believed to have approached Linklaters, which would not, strictly speaking, fall under any such agreement.
But Uria & Menendez partner Charles Coward denies any formal agreement was made.
He also remains unfazed by Berricano's departure.
He says: "Inigo has always been very close to Linklaters and is very close friends of [head of Spanish office] Miles Curley so this is a bit of a special situation.
"We do not particularly interpret this as an act of aggression."
Linklaters chief executive Terence Kyle adds that the latest round of hires in Spain will not be the last.
He says: "I anticipate we will be making other appointments in the very near future to help build this office into one of the leading international practices in Spain."
Curley adds: "We have always intended to establish a significant presence in Spain.
"With two new partners with strong backgrounds in domestic and cross-border work, bringing expertise on the corporate and general finance fronts, the office is well-placed to grow rapidly into a leading practice."
The appointments come only weeks after Linklaters & Alliance announced it was opening offices in the eastern European capitals of Bucharest, Bratislava and Budapest (The Lawyer, 22 November 1999).
Uria & Menendez is planning to establish a presence in Mexico. Coward says that opportunities in Latin America for European firms are increasing and his firm hopes to form a strong alliance with a local Mexican firm.