Two of the lawyers, Russell Gardner and Dominic Lang, are senior assistants. They are to be joined at Nabarros by Michele White and a fourth solicitor, Giles Searby, who was made redundant from Norton's earlier this year. It is understood they will be setting up a shipping department at Nabarros.
Norton Rose, which is set to return to its former Bishopsgate office, is losing another member of its marine team. Andy Preston is joining Clyde & Co.
The departures follow that of senior assistant Duncan McDonald, who recently joined Wilde Sapte as a shipping litigation partner.
But Chris Manners, marketing manager at Norton Rose, says the losses are not significant: “We have something like 20 partners and 60 lawyers doing shipping work in one form or other. The challenge these people have been offered is obviously one they find attractive and that is understandable.”
He adds there are no plans to replace the assistants by recruiting externally: “But we have a steady stream of trainees and young assistants filling the gaps.”
It is understood that morale among senior assistants within the litigation department is low after the firm's reluctance to make up new partners. The last insider to be made up was Paul Williams in 1990.
One observer says: “It calls itself a shipping firm but it hasn't made up a partner for four years. It shows something somewhere isn't right.”
But Nicholas Edgell, co-ordinator of the shipping litigation group, rejects the claim, saying: “We are very much committed to shipping.”