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THE COMMERCIAL Property Department at City firm Norton Rose has been hit by a rash of defections among its senior assistant solicitor ranks.
In the past few months, five of the department's high ranking assistants have left to join other firms, with one of them joining as a partner.
Three juniors have also handed in their notice recently, making a total of eight departures from a department of around 35 fee earners.
The news coincides with reports that the firm has called in management consultants.
Tony Kay, a senior partner at Norton Rose, put the departures down to coincidence.
He pointed out that the firm had recently clinched two big property deals, advising Hanson over a 280,000 square feet shopping centre development and Wates City over a 70,000 square feet office and retail development in the City.
"I certainly wouldn't read anything into it. None of the departures are linked," said Kay.
He refused to comment on whether management consultants had recently been used, but he acknowledged that it was no secret the firm worked with consultants "from time to time".
The experience of the Norton Rose department bears a striking resemblance to that of the property team at Birmingham firm Wragge & Co, which lost seven lawyers over three months in the early summer.
The principal cause of the departures, according to insiders in both cases, is frustration at lack of partnership opportunities combined with the opening of opportunities in other firms.
Among the recent departures from Norton Rose is Mark Bryan, who has joined London firm Maples Teesdale as a partner. Also on the move is Martin Pursall, who has moved back to his home town of Cardiff to join Bevan Ashford.
Pursall said: "In a large City firm, you don't quite know where your future is. Joining Bevan Ashford, which is an up-and-coming national firm, is an excellent career move."
Katherine Head, who has joined Eversheds in London, described her decision to move as "a good one".
Other senior assistants to have left the Norton Rose department are Mark Packer, who is joining Titmuss Sainer Dechert, and Philip Mason, who is moving to Wilde Sapte.