Cadwalader poaches CMS Cameron McKenna's head of African practice

US firm Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft has lured CMS Cameron McKenna's highly-regarded project finance partner Paul Biggs to join its London office.

Biggs is the head of Camerons' African group. His departure will come as a blow to the firm as it restructures its management team to boost its ambitions for international expansion.

Biggs has masterminded the firm's African expansion, including Camerons' link-up with Cape Town law firm Canca (The Lawyer, 25 October 1999).

He is also understood to have been leading negotiations to form alliances with firms in Mozambique and Namibia.

A Camerons spokesman says that when Biggs leaves, senior projects partner Robert Phillips will take over as head of the firm's Africa group.

Biggs joined Camerons three years ago after spending a year at US firm Mayer Brown & Platt's London office.

Before that he was in charge of African legal matters at the Commonwealth Development Corporation.

His practice concentrates on power, ports and telecoms projects in Africa, India and other developing markets.

These areas tie in neatly with the practice built by London managing partner Paul Griffin at Cadwalader, which also concentrates on these areas, shunning rail, roads and bridges work.

Griffin is unwilling to go into detail about Biggs' decsision but says: “Paul has resigned from Cameron McKenna and we are looking forward to him joining us.”

Biggs is the third Camerons projects partner to leave for a US firm in just over six months.

In August Martin Stewart-Smith and Paul Stock decided to jump ship for the London office of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe.

The Camerons spokesman says the projects practice is “immensely successful and a victim of its own success”.

He says this means it is inevitable that other firms will target the group in search of partners.

Cadwalader opened in London in 1997 and surprised the London market by recruiting high-profile partners from Freshfields, Clifford Chance and Wilde Sapte.

But Biggs' arrival will be the firm's first partner hire since Griffin's arrival from Ashurst Morris Crisp at the beginning of last year.

Cadwalader and Camerons are still negotiating Biggs' leaving date.

Biggs was unavailable for comment.