Stephenson Harwood in tit-for-tat poaching move

Just a week after losing a lawyer to Richards Butler, Stephenson Harwood has snatched back a partner from the firm to boost its insolvency capability.

Ian Fletcher, who has worked at Richards Butler for 12 years, will be joining Stephenson Harwood as a non-contentious insolvency and banking partner.

Last week, Richards Butler appointed Richard Parlour, a financial services partner from Stephenson Harwood, who took a number of clients with him to his new employer.

Fletcher will be joined by Jen Woodward, who is leaving Dibb Lupton Alsop as a corporate associate to become a partner in corporate finance and banking at Stephenson Harwood.

The firm's insolvency group has recently been hit by the departure of partner Geoff Woolf, who is working out his notice period before joining SJ Berwin.

Stephenson Harwood senior partner John Pike says: “It is not really a straight replacement, he comes with further attributes. Ian is a finance lawyer of some repute so he joins our finance section in our banking group.”

But inside sources say Fletcher is joining the partnership to cover work left by departing partners.

A spokesman at Stephenson Harwood says: “We have a couple of insolvency lawyers leaving in a year or so.”

Fletcher says: “I think that essentially the insolvency department has changed dramatically from the early 1990s where there were a lot of reconstructions and receiverships. Quite a lot of the work here is now litigious. I am not a litigator.”

Chris Shulten, chief executive at Richards Butler, says: “We wish him every success.” But he declines to comment on Fletcher's reasons for leaving.

The departures of Stephenson Harwood banking partner Paul Diss, and head of corporate tax, John Carrell have not been linked to Fletcher's appointment.

“A lot of the work is basically transaction-based. It tends to be a one-off,” a spokesman says.

Pike says: “Ian and Jen have demonstrated excellent client relationship, business development and project management skills which make them exactly the sort of partners that Stephenson Harwood is seeking to attract.

“They are both bringing interesting clients with them.”