The London office of Dewey Ballantine, which is in the midst of merger negotiations with Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, has raided its US rivals in the City to boost its finance department.

Shearman & Sterling of counsel Stephen Jurgenson has joined Dewey as a partner in its project finance department and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton associate Abesh Chowdhury becomes financial services counsel.

The firm has augmented the team by transferring project finance counsel Karen Goepfert from New York.

The hires and transfer are a first step towards replacing the three UK partners, who quit that team for Berwin Leighton Paisner in January 2006.

Those exits left Dewey’s London office with just two English partners, tax specialist David Blumenthal and the projects-focused Jane Da Vall.

Dewey’s London managing partner Fred Gander said that finance remained an essential part of the firm’s UK strategy no matter what happens with the Orrick negotiations.