CHICAGO-based firm Altheimer & Gray is swooping in on niche City practice Orchard and taking the entire corporate finance team.
Four partners, three of them corporate and one in property, are leaving the 10-partner firm. They are head of corporate finance Nick Davis, and his partners Jon Lovitt and Susan Breen, and property partner Nicky Stewart.
This is the second raid on small practices Altheimer has carried out in a month, after taking seven partners from Holborn-based Barnett Alexander Chart (BAC).
Orchard was set up five years ago by the former head of litigation at DJ Freeman David Orchard. The idea was to provide big-firm expertise alongside small-firm client contact and atmosphere.
The team joining Altheimer boasts an impressive client list. Davis, who leads the group, has acted for recruiting giant TMP Worldwide and its online spinoff monster.com, as well as for hotel group Brooks Hotels.
Lovitt acts for Systems International Group, TMP Worldwide and public affairs company Columbus Group, and Breen's clients have included Rebus Holdings, ABN AMRO and Lyons Brook Bond in Africa.
Finally, in property, Stewart has acted for the likes of UNISON, Tate & Lyle, Riggs Bank and Marlborough Leisure.
The team brings the number of partners at the London office of Altheimer to 13, covering property, project finance and M&A. The seven corporate and PFI partners who defected from BAC constitute nearly half of the BAC group. The team was led by chairman Anthony Fine (The Lawyer, 9 October).
One market source says: "Theirs is a very interesting strategy, and so far a successful one. The bit of BAC that they took was a little nugget - they were quite low profile, but has a very strong PFI practice.
"Altheimer seems to have made its strategy to pick off reasonably high-quality small firms or bits of firms, and it seems able to get people in a market where firms are finding it hard to enlist."
This year, the firm has also recruited acquisition finance partner Brian Rutherford from Garretts and property partner Andrew Bond from Nabarro Nathanson.
Altheimer's London managing partner Robert Bata declines to comment on the team joining from Orchard, but says: "Our European and global strategy continues to be playing to our greater strengths, and to build on the success that we've had in the emerging markets.
"We're on target with our expansion plan in Europe, having started in London a year ago, to have 30-35 lawyers working for us by mid-November. Our principal strengths are in M&A and finance, with a very strong focus on emerging markets and telecommunications."
One commentator says: "In a market where there are any number of firms looking for corporate teams and individuals, to have gained. a team of three corporate partners and one property partner together, presumably with a book of business, is a great coup."
Nick Davis declined to comment, and David Orchard was unavailable as The Lawyer went to press.