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The departures come only weeks after merger talks between Watson Farley and US firm Hunton & Williams fell through for the second time (The Lawyer, 8 January).
The three, Philip Spector, Raymond Simon and Caryn Hemsworth, are joining King & Spalding's finance group as lease finance partners.
Spector has been with Watson Farley for nine years and specialises in tax; Simon and Hemsworth, however, only joined last year from Davis Polk & Wardwell and Chadbourne & Parke respectively (The Lawyer, 8 March 2000).
Their departures leave Watson Farley's New York office with three finance partners.
Spector declines to comment on his reasons for quitting Watson Farley, nor on whether the failed talks with Hunton & Williams played a part in their decision.
But he concedes the trio is taking work with them: "We have approached a number of clients who have expressed a desire to transfer their files to us.
"King & Spalding is a respected firm with a strong New York office and a strong finance practice which complements our leasing practice nicely."
Watson Farley New York managing partner John Osborne, however, remains unfazed about the departures.
He says: "Such partne
r moves are not that uncommon. We have ample international resource to continue our services to our clients and we are continuing to recruit and grow this area of our practice."
More than half of Watson Farley's business was derived from its overseas offices last year. Turnover was £42.5m, although average profits fell because the firm increased equity participation.
King & Spalding managing partner Walter Driver says: "The addition of these three partners adds important capabilities to our growing structured finance practice."