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TOP ten firm Lovell White Durrant has pulled off a coup de grOce by poaching two leading insurance lawyers from high profile Chicago firm Sidley & Austin.
The move, which will create a Chicago office for Lovells, flies in the face of current trends which have seen many of the top US firms enticing British high-fliers on board with six-figure salaries.
And in a further blow to the US giant, the departing partners Joe McCullough and George Platz, who gave notice last week, will be joined by associate Eric Haab.
Lovells has also signed two associates from firms outside Chicago, and negotiations are under way with another three US lawyers. The move makes Lovells the only UK practice operating in the city.
Platz and McCullough - founder and head of Sidley & Austin's reinsurance practice group - have often worked with Lovells in recent years.
McCullough says both he and Platz are "extremely excited" about the move.
"It makes perfect sense," he says. "Lovells is a wonderful firm and it has a large reinsurance practice. We look forward to being part of their family."
Lovells joint managing partner Charles Dodson, who is heading to the US for six weeks to launch the practice, says the firm is not attempting to reverse the trend by taking on US lawyers.
He says the new office will service the firm's worldwide portfolio of reinsurance clients, particularly those in Japan and continental Europe, as well as the UK and the US.
"What we see is that we will be able to provide a broader service to clients which, at the moment, involves them having to go to two different law firms," says Dodson.
"It became apparent over a period of time that it would make far more sense to do everything within one firm."
David Latham, a senior partner in the intellectual property group, will work from the office for some time before moving to Lovells in New York for a three-year secondment.
Dodson says additional associates may join in the second year of operation, and a third partner could be signed within three years.
City firm Clifford Chance says the move is an "interesting development" for Lovells, while Linklaters & Paines says the firm has "clearly seen an opportunity for one of their existing practice areas to grow".
Sidley & Austin managing partner Eden Martin declines to comment on the resignations.