Defries was responsible for winning a high-profile client base, including internet music distributor MP3. The reasons for his decision are unclear, and the firm has made no indication of his future plans.
“The information has come out somewhat prematurely,” admitted Bird & Bird chief executive David Kerr. “It's really too early to comment on where he's going to, so we can't say anything about it.” Kerr was unable to comment on the status of Defries' clients.
Defries is the second practice head to leave in the last year. In autumn 2000, the firm's co-head of IT Christopher Rees left for Herbert Smith. He is also the second senior e-commerce partner to leave Bird & Bird in the last 18 months. In May 2000 the firm lost senior e-commerce partner Mark Haftke to KLegal.
But Kerr is confident that the firm's e-commerce practice is still buoyant, despite the dramatic downturn in the market.
“This market has experienced a huge downturn; now only the strongest survive,” said Kerr. “But we're finding that our e-commerce client base is incredibly active at the moment. The work is changing – we're servicing more large-scale businesses than dotcoms – but generally we're finding that this market is coming of age.”
“This market has experienced a huge downturn; now only the strongest survive”
David Kerr, Bird & Bird
Conversely, KPMG Legal in Sweden has just lost its director of the communications, IT and e-commerce department to Bird & Bird's Stockholm office. Johan Tyden began his legal career at high-tech company Ericsson in 1984. He rose to the position of head of legal for mobile systems and mobile terminals before moving to KPMG Legal.
Tyden is the second international partner from an accountancy-tied firm to join Bird & Bird. In May 2001, the firm took on a partner, Olivier Freget, from Andersen Legal's Paris arm SG Archibald to advise on competition work in the IT sector (The Lawyer, 14 May).