City firm Bristows Cooke & Carpmael has lost its entire construction department to Nicholson Graham & Jones.
Bristows has acknowledged that the defection, described by all sides as amicable, has effectively brought to an end to its construction practice.
It will focus its resources on developing its reputation as an intellectual property litigation specialist.
Three partners – James Hudson, Linda Kent and Mark Clinton – and three assistants will form a new construction and engineering department at Nicholson Graham & Jones under existing partner David Race.
The Bristows team had been credited as being the second largest department dealing with Official Referee's business. Hudson is chairman of the Official Referees Solicitors Association.
He said of the move: “We wanted to place ourselves where we thought we could practice a wider variety of construction law.”
Nicholson Graham & Jones managing partner Michael Johns said the new team is a “very significant step forward for us”.
The joint managing partner at Bristows, Sally Field, described it as a “terrific move” which had been carried out in a “friendly and consensual” manner.
But she said it also allowed her firm to develop its main strengths in intellectual property and technology.