US FIRM LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae has recruited Wilde Sapte's head of commercial litigation Peter Sharp to its new multinational partnership.
The MNP, formed last week, includes five US lawyers as well as Sharp. More partners are expected to sign up later this year.
At present only Sharp and the London office's head US lawyer, Tom Burke, are permanently based in the UK, but Sharp says the aim is to build the office up to 50 lawyers within five years.
His appointment is the first step in LeBoeufs' plan to build a strong City practice. The firm already operates 13 domestic offices in the US as well as a number of foreign practices.
"LeBoeufs has a pre-eminent reputation in the insurance field, primarily in the US but also internationally. Their ambition is to build up a substantial presence in London," says Sharp.
"You should expect to see more partners joining throughout this year as well as assistant solicitors."
Burke, who is returning to the New York base in May, will be replaced by insurance law specialist Jeff Johnson.
Johnson and Sharp will build on the national and international client base and expand the office's insurance and reinsurance expertise.
Burke says LeBoeufs, which last year advertised for lawyers to take up u400,000 per annum contracts, headhunted Sharp for partnership because he is "an energetic, go-getter type that will fit in well with the LeBoeufs culture".
Sharp, who joined Wilde Sapte in 1981 and made partnership three years later, says he had 14 "very happy years" with the firm, but decided to take up the challenge of building a new practice.
"LeBoeufs wants to set up a serious, long-term operation in London practising English and US law," he says.
"There are two things I enjoy doing - one is practising as an insurance litigation lawyer and the other is building and running a law firm. It was an opportunity I felt was too good to miss."
Wilde Sapte senior partner Charles Leeming says the firm is sorry to see Sharp depart, "but that's life".
"We were very sorry to lose him," says Leeming. "He's a well-organised partner and he's good at his job. But it's not going to make a dramatic difference to Wilde Sapte. We wish Peter well in his new job and look forward to hearing about him in the future."