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INTERNATIONAL law firm Coudert Brothers has lost 17 lawyers, including five partners, in a walkout from its Paris and New York offices.
In a surprise move last week, partner Jean-Francois Carreras left the firm's New York base to join Parisian defectors Nicolas Sokolow, Patrick Dunaud, Jean-Francois Mercadier and Patricia Elsen.
Four of the five have joined forces as founding partners of new Paris firm Sokolow, Dunaud, Mercadier & Carreras, which will also employ Elsen as a partner.
In addition, senior Coudert associates Stephen Montravers, Jean-Michel Iscovici and Neil Robertson are partners.
A number of other associates and staff working in Couderts' Paris office have joined the breakaway firm.
Dunaud says the team, which specialises in mergers and acquisitions, and litigation, left "because there was disagreement on various issues". The new firm also operates a New York office, run by Carreras.
Sokolows, which has formed an association with Washington firm Arent Fox, will handle corporate and commercial litigation and work involving corporate acquisitions, distribution and competition law. The team is also well-known for its media litigation work.
Couderts partner Clyde E Rankin III, a member of the firm's executive committee, says the move was "not entirely unexpected" and had been mooted for a number of years.
He says the split follows discussions about the future of Couderts' Paris office. The departing lawyers had hoped to take the firm - which numbers more than 100 partners worldwide - down a more domestic route.
"There really were differences in philosophy between those partners and the firm as to precisely how the Paris office would grow and proceed," says Rankin.
"Principally, those partners were interested in pursuing a more localised, domestic practice in France, but the firm is really an international firm."
It is not known how many years each of the partners had been with Couderts, although Rankin confirmed Sokolow was the most senior member of the group.
Dunaud, the only litigation lawyer among the five, was recruited into the firm in 1992. Four of the five were equity partners, while Dunaud was a contract (salaried) partner.