Clifford Chance is losing top Brussels partner Axel Miller when he takes on a newly-created in-house role with longstanding client banking group Dexia next month.
Miller is a Belgian-qualified M&A and corporate finance specialist. Subject to the approval of Dexia's board of directors, he will join Dexia as a member of its executive committee and as general counsel. The board is expected to vote in May.
Miller has been a partner at Clifford Chance for just two years, joining from Stibbe. Clifford Chance had previously acted for Dexia, but the bank became a key client when Miller arrived in 1999.
Last month, Miller led the Clifford Chance team advising Dexia on its takeover of fellow Belgian bank Artesia Banking Corporation, in an all-share transaction worth euro3.2bn (£2bn).
It is understood that Miller will coordinate a committee responsible for integrating the two groups as part of his new role.
A spokesman for Dexia says: "From a legal point of view, there will be a lot of work to do because there will be a full absorption of Artesia's entities and subsidiaries into Dexia."
Dexia has legal counsel at subsidiary level but has never had an in-house lawyer at group level. The spokesman says: "As the group becomes more and more European and complex it is natural that somebody will take on the responsibility of general counsel at the top level."
Miller's departure is a blow to Clifford Chance, leaving it with seven partners in Brussels. But office managing partner Yves Herinckx believes that the move will reinforce the firm's relationship with Dexia.
He says: "We're very sorry to lose Axel because he is a superb lawyer and always a very effective member of the team. But the good thing about this is that he is going to a major client of ours and he goes into a very high-level position."