Leading Portuguese independent firm PLMJ is bracing itself for the departure of five partners and their entire teams, after a dispute over the law firm’s strategy.

The most senior partner to leave is corporate head Dulce Franco. Joining Franco are corporate partners Gabriela Rodrigues Martins, José Jácome and Vítor Pereira das Neves, and PLMJ’s real estate head Maria José Verde.

The firm will lose 25 lawyers in total to the breakaway project, which could see the launch of a new challenger in the Portuguese market at the end of January 2008.

The partners refused to comment on their plans.

The departures will be a huge blow to PLMJ, which numbers 140 lawyers in total, leaving the firm without some of its most experienced partners. Franco and Rodrigues Martins have both spent more than 20 years at PLMJ.

It is understood that the departing lawyers were unhappy with PLMJ’s acquisitive strategy, which led to client conflicts.

The usually quiet Portuguese market has been bustling recently. Last month Portuguese firm Abreu Advogados secured a trio of mergers to become one of the top five largest Portuguese firms.