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Bevan Ashford has poached a construction law partner from south-west rivals Townsends.
John Birch will head Bevan Ashford's construction litigation unit from the Exeter office, but will commute between the firm's other bases.
Birch used to be chief quantity surveyor for an Italian construction company in Kuwait, building military bases designed to keep Iraq out.
But after seeing interesting disputes disappear into the hands of lawyers, Birch decided to return to England to re-train.
He was an articled clerk with Townsends and became a partner in 1990 after six years with the firm.
Bevan Ashford chief executive Chris Hawkins says: "We are delighted that such a high profile specialist as John Birch is joining Bevan Ashford. Our strategic objective is to be the first choice for construction law advice in the South West.">