Firms headhunt financial experts

The battle for financial service lawyers is hotting up with at least three firms poaching partners and announcing expansion plans.

Hammond Suddards' banking and financial services group last week headhunted SJ Berwin partner Bruce Gardner and two Slaughter and May assistants, and is proposing to recruit up to nine more partners within the next nine months.

At the same time, SJ Berwin has bagged financial service partner Tamasin Little from Stephenson Harwood. Berwins says it is aiming to expand its securities group “significantly” and will eventually replace Gardner. In turn, Stephenson Harwood has recruited financial services assistant Richard Parlour from Clifford Chance.

Gardner, a regulatory specialist, will head Hammonds' financial services group along with corporate tax partner Chris Haan, himself recruited from Coudert Brothers earlier this year. Haan said that since the firm had decided to target the financial services market one year ago, it had expanded from one to 10 lawyers and is negotiating to take on up to nine partners in the near future.

Hammonds suffered a number of high profile departures early this year, losing banking partners Andrew Knight to Manches & Co and Nigel Dale to Eversheds in Manchester.

But the firm has recruited high-flying banking partner Gwen Griffiths to replace Knight and has also brought in three paralegals for its derivatives practice: Iona Levine from HSBC, Robert Davies from Chase Manhattan Bank and Wendy Rogers from Westpac.

Gardner described his departure from Berwins after 14 years as amicable but said: “Many firms treat financial services as a backwater. Hammonds doesn't have this attitude.”

He added that he preferred being in the City where he was closer to clients than in SJ Berwin's West End location.

Hammonds has also recruited two Slaughter and May senior assistants to its financial services group – fraud and insider dealing litigation specialist Simon Price and corporate taxation specialist George Hardy will join the Leeds office in the New Year.

SJ Berwin's new recruit Tamasin Little has been a partner at Stephenson Harwood since 1992. She takes the firm's securities group staff up to three partners with three assistants. She said: “The financial services market is damn exciting at the moment.”