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LOVELL White Durrant has finally succumbed to "market forces" and decided to drop private client work.
The firm's two partner and seven fee earner private client team is in talks with a number of London firms with the aim of transferring the whole department, a move made by many of the other City firms in recent years.
Lesley McDonagh, Lovells' managing partner, confirms the partnership decision.
She says: "We have announced that we will be closing [the department]. Obviously, we are still providing a full service to our private clients. It is with some regret, because we have an excellent team there."
As to whether commercial reasons dictated the move, she says: "Like all decisions, it doesn't fall into one category."
Partner Charles Pike, heading the private client team, was unsurprised by the decision. "It's a question of devoting resources to particular business areas, such as corporate."
Relations with Lovells remain "amicable" and the team, due to depart in the next three to four months, hopes to receive referrals from the parent firm, says Pike.
"Both I and the staff regard this as an opportunity," he adds.
The move comes four years after the previous managing partner Andrew Walker said "we do not intend to give up the work" (The Lawyer 9 July 1991). At the time, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Herbert Smith and Linklaters & Paines were dropping their private client work, as had Nabarro Nathanson, McKenna & Co, Slaughter and May and Richards Butler.
Firms taking on such teams have included Wilsons, Withers, Lee & Pembertons, and Fladgate Fielder.
Pike's team specialises in high net worth individuals, trusts, tax planning in both a corporate and domestic sense, probate and charities.
Three other partners from different departments are also understood to be leaving Lovells, but the firm will neither confirm nor deny this.
From the late 1980s the big City firms narrowed the activities of private clients and trust practices to focus on commercial trusts. Most continued to provide private client services to existing clients.