Osborne Clarke is poaching Morgan Cole's head of banking from its Reading office. The lateral hire comes just a week after The Lawyer revealed Morgan Cole is considering axing up to 15 partners in an attempt to increase profit margins.
The departure of banking partner Hugh Jones is not thought to be linked to the discussion document leaked to The Lawyer that says Morgan Cole will have to lay off staff if it is to raise profits per partner from u115,000 to u124,000 over the next year and which will be discussed at a partners' meeting this Tuesday, but speculation is rife that further partners may leave the firm in Jones' wake.
Jones has been chosen to head Osborne Clarke's acquisition finance unit of the banking department and will bed down in the firm's work practices at the flagship Bristol office before relocating to Reading as head of banking.
Insiders say Jones will bring top banking clients with him, including Bank of Scotland, Barclays and Lloyds TSB bank.
Osborne Clarke currently has no banking lawyers in its Reading or London offices, but further hires are planned along with expansion of the Bristol office.
An assistant has already been hired from a City firm to join Jones in Reading, but Osborne Clarke has disclosed no details about him.
The recruitments bring the firm's banking team across its offices to eight.
The Reading branch, which now has 25 staff, was set up in the summer of 1998 with two partners and five staff members.
Morgan Cole, which has 104 partners and was formed by the merger of South Wales firm Morgan Bruce with Oxford practice Cole & Cole last November, snapped up London firm Fishburn Boxer earlier this year. Of its future, John Moisson, joint chairman of Morgan Cole, says: "We have made no decisions about axing any partners."
In a statement, joint chairman Guy Clarke says:
"The board recognises the need to constantly monitor business performance to ensure its competitive edge is maintained."