Slaughter and May head of banking Christopher Fitzgerald is joining National Westminster Bank as general counsel. He succeeds Nicholas Wilson, who is retiring in April this year.
Fitzgerald has been a Slaughters partner for 19 years and, as a member of the firm's partnership board, shares executive responsibility for its financial function.
His replacement at Slaughters is Richard Slater, a partner for 16 years.
At Natwest, Fitzgerald will be the senior legal officer from 1 May. He will report to the board and be a member of the bank's executive team.
Fitzgerald will take overall responsibility for group legal services, both in the UK and internationally.
Lord Alexander of Weedon QC, Natwest chairman and Bar Council ex-chairman, praises Fitzgerald's "distinguished track record, both internationally and within our own industry. He will bring to bear an important perspective to the development of the group's legal services." Lord Alexander says Wilson "has provided us with invaluable wise counsel...we are most grateful for his contribution to the group".
Giles Henderson, Slaughters' senior partner, says that while he regrets Fitzgerald's departure, his appointment at Natwest is "a considerable tribute both to him and to Slaughter and May".
Fitzgerald's appointment coincides with Slaughters' widely-reported topping of the Acquisitions Monthly tables of lawyers to UK public takeovers for the second year running. The firm advised companies or financial advisers in 16 deals worth u4.1 billion. Freshfields came second with 11 deals totalling u3.6 billion.
Slaughters came top in the table for lawyers acting for companies, with 10 deals worth u3.3 billion.
It acted for the targets of 1994's largest completed takeovers - LWT (taken over by Granada), and Westland Group (taken over by GKN).
Slaughters acted on the largest failed public deal of 1994, instructed by Lasmo in its repelling of the Enterprise Oil bid.