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US firms in London are making a major move into real estate work following the poaching of two property partners from Nabarro Nathanson.
Weil Gotshal & Manges' London office has lured Nabarros partner Donna Stringer as its first property lawyer. She will provide support to the firm's international corporate and finance practices and will be UK liaison lawyer for its international property group.
And London newcomer Altheimer & Gray has hired Nabarros' Andrew Bond, as predicted in The Lawyer (26 July). The Chicago-based firm has also raided Slaughter and May for Benjamin Done, a four year-qualified property lawyer.
Eric Rosedale, joint head of Weil Gotshal's European property and finance group, says: "Donna will be working out of London, and our central and eastern European practice will be working with her because we are finding a lot of cross-selling opportunities between eastern Europe and the investment funds based in London.
"It will be a natural progression for our practice, which is oriented to servicing existing capital markets and corporate clients as well as UK real estate clients."
Robert Bata, managing partner of Altheimers' London office, says the firm plans to expand its UK property practice "exponentially" to be "one of the cornerstones" of the London office's business.
"Andrew will lead the development of our pan-European property practice, bringing his experience and recognition and combining it with many of the clients we already represent.
"His practice is not a bricks and mortar practice but a sophisticated corporate practice," Bata says.
Explaining his reason for moving, Bond says: "I think the opportunities are manifest in that [Altheimers] does a lot of cross-border property work which is often financed from London and they need a presence there."
A UK source says a number of US firms are now looking to move into property work. "There are firms now who are realising the potential importance of property to the growth of their practice and there will be more property lawyers who are serious about developing their practices who will go to US firms."
UK lawyers may be attracted by the more sophisticated financing techniques practised by US firms. Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft's London property practice specialises in securitising property portfolios, a technique that is common in the US but not in the UK.