City firm Warner Cranston has appointed an assistant from Manches as a partner to head its troubled employment practice.
The department is reeling following the departure of two leading partners and six assistants over six months.
David Dalgarno, the previous head, who was regarded by his peers as one of the leading employment lawyers working in the City, left in May to join US firm McDermott Will & Emery.
Fellow partner David Cubitt left in the summer for Norton Rose, leaving the firm with four associates, two of whom are now believed to have also resigned.
The appointment of Geoffrey Mead, an assistant in the employment practice at Manches, has caused surprise among employment practitioners.
One leader in the field describes Mead as "a couple of rungs down from Dalgarno", and says: "There is no real comparison. Warner Cranston has been in a seriously exposed position since the departure of Dalgarno and they really needed to bring in someone of substance in his place.
"Mead is a solid practitioner but he does not have the flair and calibre of Dalgarno."
The Lawyer understands that a large number of Warner Cranston clients moved with Dalgarno to McDermotts, while other leading employment practices say they have been approached to take on work.
Victoria Parry, a senior associate, has been head of the employment group since Dalgarno left.
Warner Cranston corporate partner Peter Alfandary describes Mead as "a well-known leading light in the employment field".
Alfandary says: "We, as a firm, have always been committed to employment and we have a super reputation in the market.
"The arrival of Geoff will be good for clients, good for the department and good for the firm."
He says the department may recruit further partners in the future.
Mead's move is his third appointment in the last two years.
He spent four years at Norton Rose before joining Salans Hertzfeld & Heilbronn for six months. He went to Manches one year ago.