Leading construction specialist Masons has ditched its private client practice.
Group head Peter Instone is taking his five-strong team to niche firm Forsters. Senior assistant Fiona Smith will join the group as a partner.
Masons will refer any new private client work to Forsters. William Barnes, Masons director of operations and business development, says the firm did not initially plan to abandon the group.
But he adds: "Quite simply it is a specialised area and it is something that you need to have a depth of resources to support.
"This was something that came up, we did not look for it, but we agreed that it was something that was right to do. Our strategy is very much to focus on a series of niche and specialised skills like construction and IT."
Masons is the latest in a series of firms to off-load its private client practice. Last year royal solicitors Farrer & Co swallowed up the bulk of Rowe & Maw's group (The Lawyer, 2 August 1999).
And in the regions, since 1996, Leeds firm Wrigleys has taken the practice groups from Dibb Lupton Broomhead, Hammond Suddards and Eversheds.
Forsters, which was established in 1998, will now have 12 trust and personal tax fee-earners.
Senior partner David Willis says: "We believe there is a place for a firm offering high-quality private client practices particularly as there are less and less firms doing this sort of work now."
Talks between the firms began several months ago after Forsters approached Masons. Willis says there were a variety of factors that led it to Masons including "very competent fee-earners, a movable group, and a fairly self-contained client base".
Although the 17-partner firm has no immediate plans to continue recruiting into the group, Willis says it will "take stock" in six months time to assess the practice needs.
The team will join Forsters at the beginning of May. One private client assistant will not go with the team and will move into a commercial practice at Masons.