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O'Melveny & Myers has swooped for two Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) litigation partners, including its head of international litigation David Kavanagh.
Kavanagh and partner David Foster are leaving to join the London office of US firm O'Melveny, which is launching an international arbitration and litigation practice in its City office.
O'Melveny London co-managing partner Chris Ashworth said the firm was well known for litigation and arbitration in the US and that it had "always been a slight oddity" that the London office had no contentious capacity.
"The O'Melveny strategic plan has always been to develop the contentious capacity," he added.
Kavanagh joined WFW in 1990 and is best known for his work defending the Indian government in the Dabhol power station dispute, which was initiated by General Electric and Bechtel and was one of the world's largest investment treaty arbitrations.
Kavanagh also successfully represented Vivendi and its Polish telecoms partner Elektrim in their joint venture dispute with T-Mobile for control of PTC, Poland's largest mobile phone operator.
WFW managing partner Michael Greville said: "It's obviously disappointing when any talented lawyers leave the firm, but it's not devastating.
"We still have five talented litigation partners in the London office."
WFW's litigation team has suffered during the slow litigation period in London and has made five redundancies during the past year.
Greville warned: "I wouldn't be investing in litigation in London in the current climate."