Former Clifford Chance managing partner Tony Williams is quitting the firm for Arthur Andersen's legal network.
Williams will oversee the integration of the legal network associated to the accountancy giant.
As first revealed by The Lawyer (19 July), Williams stepped down as managing partner on 1 January following the firm's merger with Rogers & Wells and Punder Volhard Weber & Axster.
Clifford Chance's new global structure removed the position of UK managing partner.
Sources suggest Williams lost out in a power struggle with the firm's new chief executive Michael Bray, who was the main player in the negotiations with Rogers & Wells.
Williams told The Lawyer in July: "I had the choice to stay in management and accept that I would be in management for ever more, and I didn't want to do that."
But it seems the lure of a powerful international role and a salary reported to be close to £1m has tempted Williams back into a strategic role. Before becoming managing partner in 1997 he headed Clifford Chance's Moscow office.
He will work closely with the head of Andersen Legal Alberto Tyrol and the chief of the European network Patrick Bignon.
Williams is the biggest hitter to move to one of the big five's legal arms and his decision is a major coup for Andersen Legal.
An industry source says: "There has been pressure on Andersen Legal to demonstrate the ability to attract high calibre lawyers, and Tony Williams, if he does move, would be exactly that sort of person."
The news will shock Clifford Chance partners. The firm was unaware of Williams' decision before The Lawyer contacted it last Friday.
Neither Williams, Clifford Chance nor Andersen Legal were prepared to comment on the news.